Socioeconomic Differences Between Medically and Surgically Treated Prolactinomas: A Retrospective Review of 598 Patients

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Journal of Neurosurgery


OBJECTIVE: Socioeconomic status (SES) is known to affect presentations and outcomes in pituitary neuroendocrine tumor resections, but there is a paucity of literature examining its impact specifically on patients with prolactinomas, who may be treated medically or surgically. The authors sought to determine whether SES was associated with differences in treatment choice or outcomes for prolactinoma patients.

METHODS: The authors retrospectively reviewed patient records at a high-volume academic pituitary center for prolactinoma diagnoses. Patients were split into medically and surgically treated cohorts. Race, ethnicity, insurance status, primary care physician (PCP) status, and zip code-based income data were collected and examined as socioeconomic covariates. Outcomes of interest included pretreatment likelihood of surgical cure, medical versus surgical treatment allocation, and posttreatment remission rates.

RESULTS: The authors analyzed 568 prolactinoma patients (351 medically treated and 217 surgically treated). Patients receiving surgery were more likely to have Medicaid or private insurance (p < 0.001) and have lower incomes (p < 0.001) than medically treated patients. Lower-income surgical patients were more likely to require surgical intervention for an indication such as tumor decompression than higher-income patients (p = 0.023). Surgical patients with a PCP had a higher estimated likelihood of surgical cure (p = 0.008), while no SES-based differences in surgical remission likelihood existed in the medical cohort. After surgery, surgical patients who achieved remission had significantly higher income than those who did not (p < 0.001). Other SES factors were not associated with surgical remission, and among medically treated patients, remission rates were not affected by any SES factor. Income was inversely related to prolactinoma size in both cohorts (surgical, p < 0.001; medical, p = 0.005) but was associated more prominently in surgical patients (surgical, -0.65 mm per $10,000; medical, -0.37 mm per $10,000).

CONCLUSIONS: While surgical prolactinoma patients were prone to income and PCP-related disparities, no SES disparities were found among medically treated patients. Income had a more pronounced association with tumor size in the surgical cohort and likely contributed to the increased need for surgical intervention seen in low-income surgical patients. Addressing socioeconomic healthcare disparities is needed among surgical prolactinoma patients to increase rates of early presentation and improve the outcomes of low-SES populations.