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Neurology India
Medknow Publications on behalf of the Neurological Society of India
ISSN: 0028-3886 EISSN: 1998-4022
Vol. 59, Num. 5, 2011, pp. 696-699

Neurology India, Vol. 59, No. 5, September-October, 2011, pp. 696-699

Original Article

3D volumetry comparison using 3T magnetic resonance imaging between normal and adenoma-containing pituitary glands

Ernesto Roldan-Valadez1, Ana Cristina Garcia-Ulloa2, Omar Gonzalez-Gutierrez1, Manuel Martinez-Lopez1

1 Magnetic Resonance Unit, Medica Sur Hospital and Clinic Foundation, Mexico City, Mexico
2 Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition, Mexico City, Mexico
Correspondence Address: Ernesto Roldan-Valadez, Magnetic Resonance Unit, Medica Sur Hospital and Clinic Foundation, Puente de Piedra 150, Toriello Guerra, Tlalpan, CP 14050, Mexico City, Mexico,

Date of Submission: 15-Jul-2011
Date of Decision: 07-Aug-2011
Date of Acceptance: 26-Aug-2011

Code Number: ni11213

PMID: 22019653


Background: Computed-assisted three-dimensional data (3D) allows for an accurate evaluation of volumes compared with traditional measurements.
An in vitro method comparison between geometric volume and 3D volumetry to obtain reference data for pituitary volumes in normal pituitary glands (PGs) and PGs containing adenomas.
Prospective, transverse, analytical study.
Materials and Methods:
Forty-eight subjects underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with 3D sequencing for computer-aided volumetry. PG phantom volumes by both methods were compared. Using the best volumetric method, volumes of normal PGs and PGs with adenoma were compared. Statistical analysis used the Bland-Altman method, t-statistics, effect size and linear regression analysis.
Method comparison between 3D volumetry and geometric volume revealed a lower bias and precision for 3D volumetry. A total of 27 patients exhibited normal PGs (mean age, 42.07 ± 16.17 years), although length, height, width, geometric volume and 3D volumetry were greater in women than in men. A total of 21 patients exhibited adenomas (mean age 39.62 ± 10.79 years), and length, height, width, geometric volume and 3D volumetry were greater in men than in women, with significant volumetric differences. Age did not influence pituitary volumes on linear regression analysis.
Results from the present study showed that 3D volumetry was more accurate than the geometric method. In addition, the upper normal limits of PGs overlapped with lower volume limits during early stage microadenomas.

Keywords: 3D volumetry, Bland-Altman plot, geometric volume, magnetic resonance imaging, pituitary adenoma, pituitary volume


Currently, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the method of choice for pituitary assessment. [1] Pituitary volume (PV) measurements are crucial for diagnosis and for assessing the effectiveness of treatment during follow-up. [2] Although previous studies have reported pituitary gland (PG) measurements for various age groups, the majority of these reports focused on pituitary height (PH). Some reports presented PV data using conventional geometric methods, [3],[4],[5] and several studies reported a normal PV range for some age groups (children and post-menopausal women). [6],[7] The aim of the present study was to obtain reference data for PG volumes from a Latin American population. The traditional geometric volume (GV) method was compared with a three-dimensional (3D) volumetry method, which was based on a computer-assisted algorithm. In addition, normal PG limits were compared with limits observed in early-stage PG adenomas.

Materials and Methods

The experimental design consisted of a prospective, analytical and transversal design. A total of 48 subjects underwent brain MRI for sellar evaluation between June 2010 and October 2010. Subjects were then assigned to two groups: Group 1 = healthy subjects without clinical evidence of PG lesion; Group 2 = patients with clinical evidence of micro- or macroadenoma (physical exam, high hormone levels documented). Informed consent and approval from the Institution's Ethical Committee were obtained.

Conventional evaluations of the PG were performed using a 3.0T HDxt GE Signa scanner (General Electric Healthcare, Milwaukee, WI, USA). All images were acquired using an MRI 8-channel high-resolution brain array coil. The standard clinical sequences consisted of coronal T2-weighted fast spin-echo, axial T2-weighted FLAIR, coronal spin echo T1, sagittal T1 and sagittal T2. Dynamic pituitary evaluation was performed with multiphase sequences. To estimate the 3D volumes, coronal T1 SPGR was used following Gadovist® administration (Bayer Schering Pharma, dose 0.1 mmol/kg).

PG diameters consisted of maximum distance in millimeters (mm) between two surfaces using calipers provided with the installed software; pituitary height (PH), pituitary length (PL) and pituitary width (PW) were obtained. GV was obtained by multiplying the three major diameters (PH, PL and PW) by a factor of 0.523 (this factor resulted from the sphere volume equation coefficient and cubic volume calculation: (4/3π)(r3 )/(2r) 3 = 3.1416/6 = 0.52). [8] 3D volumetry was obtained using the Volume Rendering tool from the FuncTool software (version 4.3, GE Medical Systems, Milwaukee, WI, USA). A total of 12 jelly MRI phantoms were previously created to represent normal glands and glands with adenomas; each model was weighed, which was converted to an approximate volume (mm 3 ).

Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS software version 17.0 (SPSS, Chicago, IL, USA). Statistical significance was indicated by P <0.05. Data presentation was according to guidelines from the American Psychological Association. [9] Bland-Altman analysis [10] was performed to compare GV and 3D volumetry as well as to determine which results best fit the real volumes. Subsequently, PVs were compared between normal PGs and glands with microadenomas. Normal limits were considered to be mean ± two standard deviations. [11] Kolmogorov-Smirnov and Levene tests, effect size measurements (Cohen's d and effect-size correlation r), Pearson΄s correlation coefficient and regression analysis were also performed. [12]


Normal PG was detected in 27 subjects (mean age 42.07 ± 16.17 years; range, 16-77 years) and PGs with adenoma were observed in 21 patients (mean age 39.62 ± 10.79 years; range 18-61 years).

Although the method comparison between GV and 3D volumetry resulted in an excellent correlation with actual phantom volumes (r = 0.969 and r = 0.998, respectively, P < 0.001), mean differences and confidence limits from 3D volumetry were smaller. Therefore, 3D volumetry was selected to analyze PV (bias and precision fell within criteria cut-offs set a priori). In normal PGs, length, height, width, GV and 3D volumetry were greater in women than in men, but the GV difference only was significant [Table - 1]. For PGs with adenoma, length, height, width, GV and 3D volumetry were larger in men, with significant differences observed in volumes [Table - 2]. Volume comparison between normal PG and adenomas resulted in a non-significant 113% increase in pituitary size [Table - 3]. [Figure - 1] shows an example of a normal PG and a PG with adenoma. Linear regression analyses revealed a strong positive correlation between both methods (r = 0.672 in normal PG and r =0.866 in adenomas, P < 0.001). There was no significant association between 3D volumes and age in normal PGs and in PGs with adenoma (P > 0.05).


It is important to understand the wide range of anatomical variations in the sella region and PG when interpreting MR findings that are suspected to be pathological. [13] The present study demonstrated that 3D volumetry offers a lower bias and higher precision than the geometric method. In addition, the upper normal PG limits overlapped with lower volumes limits in early-stage microadenomas. Results demonstrating larger PG volumes in females were consistent with previous studies. [14] The use of one-dimensional measurements (PH), which are still presented in some specialized neuroradiology textbooks, [15] should be replaced by normative 3D volumetry, which is a new standard for pituitary size measurements.


1.Doraiswamy PM, Potts JM, Axelson DA, Husain MM, Lurie SN, Na C, et al. MR assessment of pituitary gland morphology in healthy volunteers: Age- and gender-related differences. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 1992;13:1295-9.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  
2.Consensus guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of growth hormone (GH) deficiency in childhood and adolescence: Summary statement of the GH Research Society. GH Research Society. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2000;85:3990-3.  Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
3.Argyropoulou M, Perignon F, Brunelle F, Brauner R, Rappaport R. Height of normal pituitary gland as a function of age evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging in children. Pediatr Radiol 1991;21:247-9.  Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]  
4.Suzuki M, Takashima T, Kadoya M, Konishi H, Kameyama T, Yoshikawa J, et al. Height of normal pituitary gland on MR imaging: age and sex differentiation. J Comput Assist Tomogr 1990;14:36-9.  Back to cited text no. 4  [PUBMED]  
5.Lurie SN, Doraiswamy PM, Husain MM, Boyko OB, Ellinwood EH Jr, Figiel GS, et al. In vivo assessment of pituitary gland volume with magnetic resonance imaging: The effect of age. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1990;71:505-8.  Back to cited text no. 5  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
6.Alba M, Hall CM, Whatmore AJ, Clayton PE, Price DA, Salvatori R. Variability in anterior pituitary size within members of a family with GH deficiency due to a new splice mutation in the GHRH receptor gene. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2004;60:470-5.  Back to cited text no. 6  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
7.Fink AM, Vidmar S, Kumbla S, Pedreira CC, Kanumakala S, Williams C, et al. Age-related pituitary volumes in prepubertal children with normal endocrine function: Volumetric magnetic resonance data. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2005;90:3274-8.  Back to cited text no. 7  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
8.Wisneski JA, Pfeil CN, Wyse DG, Mitchell R, Rahimtoola SH, Gertz EW. Left ventricular ejection fraction calculated from volumes and areas: Underestimation by area method. Circulation 1981;63:149-51.  Back to cited text no. 8  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
9.APA. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 6 th ed. United States: American Psychological Association; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Bland JM, Altman DG. Comparing methods of measurement: Why plotting difference against standard method is misleading. Lancet 1995;346:1085-7.  Back to cited text no. 10  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
11.Morton RF, Hebel JR, McCarter RJ. Biological Variability. In: Morton RF, Hebel JR, McCarter RJ, editors. A Study Guide to Epidemiology and Biostatistics. 5 th ed. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Aspen Publishers, Inc.; 2001. p. 43-50.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Field F. Discovering statistics using SPSS. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Renn WH, Rhoton AL, Jr. Microsurgical anatomy of the sellar region. J Neurosurg 1975;43:288-98.  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Muhr C, Bergstrom K, Grimelius L, Larsson SG. A parallel study of the roentgen anatomy of the sella turcica and the histopathology of the pituitary gland in 205 autopsy specimens. Neuroradiology 1981;21:55-65.  Back to cited text no. 14    
15.Keats TE, Sistrom C. Measurement of normal pituitary gland by CT. In: Keats TE, Sistrom C, editors. Atlas of Radiologic Measurement. St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby; 2001. p. 23.  Back to cited text no. 15    

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