Last updated on June 2019

Feasibility of Endosphenoidal Coil Placement for Imaging of the Sella During Transsphenoidal Surgery

Brief description of study


Pituitary tumors can cause problems by secreting hormones in the body. They can also problems by growing large and pushing on organs near the pituitary gland. The best treatment for such tumors is to remove them by surgery. But that may be sometimes difficult. Some tumors maybe too small to see. Some other tumors maybe so large that portions maybe left behind during surgery. The endosphenoidal coil (ESC) is a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device. It fits in a small space made during surgery near the pituitary. Researchers want to see if it helps transmit MRI signals during surgery to make better images of the pituitary gland and tumors.


To test the safety of using a new coil device to improve MRI imaging of pituitary tumors during surgery.


Adults 18-65 years old who are having pituitary tumor surgery at NIH


Participants will be screened with:

  • Medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Review of prior brain scans
  • Blood and pregnancy tests

All participants will have MRI of pituitary gland. They will lie on a table that slides into a metal cylinder in a strong magnetic field. They will lie still and get earplugs for loud sounds. A dye will be inserted into an arm vein by needle.

Participants will stay in the hospital for about 1 week. They will repeat screening tests.

Participants will have standard pituitary surgery. They will get medicine to go to sleep. The surgeon will create a path to the pituitary gland from under the lip.

During surgery, the ESC will be placed through the path to near the pituitary. Then an MRI will be done during surgery.

Then the ESC will be removed and standard surgery will continue.

Participants will get standard post-operative care under another protocol.

Detailed Study Description

Tumors of the pituitary gland comprise up to 20% of all brain tumors. The central location and the small size of the pituitary gland make the management of tumors particularly challenging. Transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) to resect pituitary tumors is highly successful at achieving complete cure for functional pituitary adenomas. It is most successful when such adenomas can be localized by preoperative MRI of the pituitary. However, in some instances, small functional tumors cannot be visualized. In the case of Cushing s disease (CD), such non-visualization may be as high as 50%. The success of transsphenoidal surgery is substantially reduced in patients with negative MRI, as some of the adenomas that cause CD are so small that they are difficult to find during surgical exploration of the pituitary. Surgical success is also diminished when tumors invade the walls of the cavernous sinus. MRI of the pituitary lacks imaging resolution to detect such invasion and so the surgeon cannot perform a complete resection with surgery based on the preoperative MRI.

Signal to noise ratio (SNR) is the primary constraint on achieving high quality high resolution MRI images. SNR can be improved by longer scan times or by increasing the field strength of the MRI magnet. SNR is proportional to the square of imaging time, however, long imaging times are not clinically feasible. SNR is linearly proportional to field strength, however, replacing MRI magnets is cost prohibitive.

Another strong determinant of SNR is the proximity of the MRI receiver coil to the tissue being imaged. Placement of a coil in close proximity to the structure of interest dramatically increases SNR, often as much as 10-fold. Clinically this is routinely put into practice for superficial body parts, such as the temporomandibular joints, in which small coils are placed directly over the joints to achieve rapid high-resolution imaging. For deep structures, the use of superficial coils is of no benefit. This has led to the development of endocavitary coils, such as the endorectal coil used to image the prostate gland. Such coils are now in routine clinical use here at the NIH and elsewhere.

During routine TSS, the surgical approach to the pituitary provides a route for placement of imaging tools, such as handheld ultrasound and Doppler probes in close proximity to the gland. Extending this model to MRI imaging, we realized that an endocavitary surface coil within the sphenoid sinus will allow for a marked improvement in SNR for imaging the sella. To this end, we have developed an endosphenoidal coil (ESC), demonstrated its MRI safety, and performed preliminary studies in cadaver heads to determine that the ESC can be placed through the transsphenoidal approach. Placement of ESC needs no modification in the surgical TSS approach to the pituitary gland. The goal of this protocol is to examine the safety and feasibility of ESC placement and imaging during TSS.


To evaluate the feasibility and safety of using ESC during TSS.

Study Population

The study population will be up to 20 adult subjects with pituitary tumors that require TSS. Enrollment will be completed once 10 subjects have received the study procedure. The requested accrual ceiling of 20 subjects accounts for screening failures and drop-outs who do not receive the study procedure.


This is a feasibility study of 10 subjects requiring TSS for pituitary lesions. The subjects will undergo standard TSS resection of a pituitary adenoma in the intra-operative MR suite. Following standard surgical approach, the ESC will be placed into the sphenoid sinus, while the bone of the sellar floor is still intact. Routine clinical pituitary imaging with and without intravenous contrast will be performed for comparison with standard pituitary imaging. Additional higher resolution sequences will be performed as time allows. Following imaging, standard surgical resection will be performed. Surgeon will not view scans arising from the research procedure and therefore intraoperative clinical decisions making will not be influenced by the results of the research imaging.

Outcome Measures

Primary Outcome Measure

The primary outcome of this study is the feasibility of using ESC as a clinical tool during transsphenoidal surgery. Feasibility will be assessed by the time added to a standard TSS procedure (measured from the time the TSS exposure is completed to the time to return to the operating position for completion of surgery).

Safety Outcome Measure

We will evaluate the safety of the ESC as a surgical adjunct tool. We will evaluate whether the use of ESC causes local trauma, bleeding, burns or other unanticipated safety issues during TSS.

Exploratory Outcome Measures

Clinical utility of these images will be evaluated by comparing SNR and contrast to noise ratio (CNR) measurements obtained with the ESC to preoperative standard of care images.

  1. Pituitary SNR with ESC MRI versus pre-operative standard of care images.
  2. Pituitary to tumor Contrast to Noise Ratio (CNR) with ESC MRI versus pre-operative standard of care images.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03678389

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Recruitment Status: Open

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