Pediatric Empty Sella Syndrome

Pediatric Empty Sella Syndrome



Empty sella syndrome happens when a child’s pituitary gland is shrunken or missing from its usual location in the brain.

Expanded overview

Your child’s pituitary gland is located in the center of their brain, behind their eyes and inside a bony structure called the sella turcica. The pituitary gland produces certain hormones and also controls the release of hormones from other glands.

When the pituitary gland appears to be shrunken or is not visible within the sella turcica, it is called empty sella syndrome. The empty space left is instead filled with cerebrospinal fluid - the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The only way to know if a child has empty sella syndrome is to examine the brain using imaging such as computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


There are two types of empty sella syndrome:

  • Primary empty sella syndrome - happens when part of the brain pushes down into the sella turcica and flattens the pituitary gland. There is no known cause for why this happens in some children.
  • Secondary empty sella syndrome - happens when the pituitary gland is damaged.  


There is no known cause for primary empty sella syndrome. Secondary empty sella syndrome may be caused by:

  • Injury
  • Radiation treatment for a pituitary tumor
  • Shrinking of the pituitary gland
  • Surgery to remove a pituitary tumor
  • Underdeveloped pituitary gland


Most of the time, there are no symptoms of empty sella syndrome. When symptoms do occur, they most commonly include:

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