Hypophysectomy, or hypophysis, is the surgical removal of the pituitary gland.

A pea-sized endocrine gland in the center of the brain, the pituitary produces hormones that regulate the body’s growth and metabolism. The pituitary is an important gland, so steps are taken to preserve it whenever possible, or at least partially preserve it. However, for cancers and other tumors that resist less drastic forms of treatment, hypohysectomy may be necessary. Additionally, the procedure is sometime used to treat Cushing’s Syndrome, a hormone disorder that often leads to benign tumors called pituitary adenomas.

Because the pituitary is located directly behind the nose, surgeons often access it through the nose or sinuses. For some cases, a craniotomy (opening of the skull) may be necessary.

New medical technology is making other surgical approaches possible. Stereotaxis uses x-rays or scans for guidance, allowing instruments access to the brain through tiny holes in the skull. This method is highly accurate, and allows surgeons to manipulate (destroy or remove) brain tissue. It is also used to deliver radiation to the brain with extraordinary precision.