Anatomy word of the month: pituitary

Copyright Elsevier Inc. Netter, Atlas of Human Anatomy, 6e

“Mucus, phlegm” in Latin.  Ancient anatomists thought the pituitary produced the mucous secretions of the nose.  The pituitary is a pea-sized gland hanging from a stalk on the undersurface of the brain.  It is well protected in a bony depression, the sella turcica, in the floor of the cranial cavity.  The gland is located near the top of the nasal cavity, and there is a floor drain-like bone called the cribriform plate (sieve-like, Latin) in front of it that makes the ancient idea not too far-fetched.  However, the gland has more important duties controlling the hormones of the ovaries/testes, thyroid gland, adrenal glands and milk secretion (in lactating females), among other activities.  Signs of pituitary tumors vary according to what hormone is involved.  For example, a pituitary tumor in a growing child producing growth hormone can lead to “giantism”.

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