To assess the effectiveness of bromocriptine in reducing the size of PRL-secreting macroadenomas with extrasellar extension, we conducted a prospective multicenter trial in patients without prior radiotherapy, applying a standard protocol of treatment and tumor size evaluation. Basal serum PRL levels [1441 +/- 417 (+/- SEM) ng/ml for women; 3451 +/- 1111 ng/ml for men] fell in all patients and to 11% or less of basal values in all patients but 1. Normal PRL levels were reached in 18 of the 27 patients. In 13 patients (46%), tumor size was reduced by greater than 50%, in 5 patients (18%) by about 50%, and in 9 patients (36%) by approximately 10-25%. The extent of tumor size reduction did not correlate with basal PRL, nadir PRL, percent fall in PRL, or whether PRL levels reached normal. However, a reduction in PRL levels always preceded any detectable change in tumor size. In 19 patients, reduction in tumor size was evident by 6 weeks, but in the other 8, such reduction was not noted until the 6 month evaluation. In the 4 patients in whom bromocriptine was discontinued at the end of 1 yr, tumor reexpansion occurred in 3. Visual fields improved in 9 of the 10 patients in whom they were abnormal. Because of the excellent results found in most of the patients in this series, we suggest that therapy with bromocriptine should be considered as initial management for patients with PRL-secreting macroadenomas.