Neurological and neuropsychological outcome after resection of craniopharyngiomas

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Craniopharyngiomas are rare and benign tumors of the sellar and/or parasellar region. Primary treatment involves resection followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. While the grade of resection was frequently analyzed following surgery, the neurological outcome and especially neuropsychological deficits and quality of life have been neglected for many decades. Therefore, the authors retrospectively analyzed their patient series and prospectively assessed neuropsychological outcome and quality of life following resection of craniopharyngiomas in adults.


In total, 71 patients (39 men and 32 women) with a mean age of 49 years were enrolled in the retrospective analysis. In addition, 36 of the 71 patients were included in the prospective arm of the study and underwent neurological and neuropsychological testing as well as quality of life (36-Item Short-Form Health Survey; SF-36) assessment. Factors influencing outcome were identified and correlations calculated.


Resection was performed mostly using a pterional (41.6%, 47/113 surgical procedures) or bifrontal translamina terminalis (30.1%, 34/113 surgical procedures) approach. Following surgery, visual acuity was significantly improved (> 0.2 diopters) in 32.4% (23/71) of patients, or remained stable in 45.1% (32/71) of patients. During long-term follow up, 80.3% (57/71) of patients developed pituitary insufficiency, particularly involving the corticotropic and thyrotrophic axes. In total, 75% (27/36) of patients showed neuropsychological deviations in at least 1 test item. In particular, attentiveness, cognitive speed, and short-term memory were affected. Referring to the SF-36 score, quality of life was affected in both the mental and physical score in 19.4% (7/36) and 33.3% (12/36), respectively. The risk factors that were identified were a tumor volume larger than 9 cm3, tumor extension toward/into the third ventricle or the brainstem, and resection using a bifrontal translamina terminalis or left-sided approach.


This study demonstrated that resection of craniopharyngiomas is frequently associated with postoperative neuropsychological deficits and hence an impaired quality of life. In addition to tumor size and extension toward/into the third ventricle or the brainstem, selection of the surgical approach may play a crucial role in the patient’s neuropsychological outcome and quality of life.

ABBREVIATIONS EEA = endoscopic endonasal approach; GTR = gross-total resection; ROCF = Rey–Osterrieth Complex Figure Test; SF-36 = 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey; STR = subtotal resection; TAP = Test-Battery for Attention; TMT = Trail Making Test; VLMT = Verbal Learning and Memory Test.

Article Information

Correspondence Klaus Zweckberger: University of Heidelberg, Germany.

ACCOMPANYING EDITORIAL DOI: 10.3171/2018.12.JNS182943.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online April 19, 2019; DOI: 10.3171/2018.10.JNS181557.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.






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