The pituitary gland is a small gland located at the base of the brain. It sits in a saddle-like compartment in the skull called the sella turcica. In Latin, it means Turkish saddle.
When the pituitary gland shrinks or becomes flattened, it cannot be seen on an MRI scan. This makes the pituitary gland look like an "empty sella." But the sella is not actually empty. It is often filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. With empty sella syndrome, CSF has leaked into the sella turcica, putting pressure on the pituitary gland. This causes the gland to shrink or flatten.
Primary empty sella syndrome occurs when one of the layers (arachnoid) covering the outside of the brain bulges down into the sella and presses on the pituitary.
Secondary empty sella syndrome occurs when the sella is empty because the pituitary gland has been damaged by:
- A tumor
- Radiation therapy
Empty sella syndrome may be seen in a condition called pseudotumor cerebri, which mainly affects young, obese women.
The pituitary gland makes several hormones that control other glands in the body, including the:
- Adrenal glands
A problem with the pituitary gland can lead to problems with any of the above glands and abnormal hormone levels of these glands.