Nelson's syndrome is a potentially severe complication of bilateral adrenalectomy performed in the treatment of Cushing's disease, and its management remains difficult. Of all of the features of Nelson's syndrome, the one that causes most concern is the development of a locally aggressive pituitary tumour, which, unusually for pituitary disease, may occasionally cause death from the tumour itself. This feature is especially pertinent given the increasing use in Cushing's disease of laparoscopic bilateral adrenal surgery as a highly effective treatment modality to control cortisol-excess. Despite numerous studies and reports, there is no formal consensus of what defines Nelson's syndrome. Thus, some will define Nelson's syndrome according to the classical description with an evolving pituitary mass after bilateral adrenalectomy, whereas others will rely on increasing plasma ACTH levels, even in the absence of a clear pituitary mass lesion on MRI. These factors need to be borne in mind when considering the reports of Nelson's syndrome, as there is great heterogeneity, and it is likely that overall the modern 'Nelson's syndrome' represents a different disease entity from that of the last century. In the present paper, clinical and epidemiological features of Nelson's syndrome, as well as its treatment modalities, are reviewed.
Nelson's syndrome; Cushing's syndrome; Cortisol; ACTH; Dexamethasone; Adrenal; Pituitary; Tumour