Craniopharyngiomas arise from the pituitary stalk, and in adults they are generally located posterior to the chiasm extending up into the third ventricle. The extended endonasal approach (EEA) can provide an ideal corridor between the bottom of the optic chiasm and the top of the pituitary gland (chiasm-pituitary corridor [CPC]) for their removal. A narrow CPC in patients with a prefixed chiasm and a large tumor extending up and behind the chiasm has been considered a contraindication to EEA, with a high risk of visual deterioration and subtotal resection.
A database of all patients treated in the authors’ center (Weill Cornell Medical College, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital) between July 2004 and August 2016 was reviewed. Patients with craniopharyngiomas who underwent EEA with the goal of gross-total resection (GTR) were included in the study. Patients with postfixed chiasm or limited available preoperative imaging were excluded. Using preoperative contrast-enhanced T1-weighted sagittal midline MR images, the authors calculated the CPC as well as the distance from the chiasm to the top of the tumor (CTOT). From these numbers, they calculated a ratio of the CPC to the CTOT as a measure of difficulty in removing the tumors through the EEA and called this ratio the corridor index (CI). The relationship between the CI and the ability to achieve GTR and visual outcome were measured.
Thirty-four patients were included in the study. The mean CPC was 10.1 mm (range 5.2–19.1 mm). The mean CTOT was 12.8 mm (range 0–28.3 mm). The median CI was 0.8; the CI ranged from 0.4 to infinity (for tumors with a CTOT of 0). Thirty-two patients had GTR (94.1%) and 2 had subtotal resection. The CPC value had no relationship with our ability to achieve GTR and no effect on visual or endocrine outcome.
EEA for craniopharyngioma is generally considered the first-line surgical approach. Although a narrow corridor between the top of the pituitary gland and the bottom of the chiasm may seem to be a relative contraindication to surgery for larger tumors, the authors’ data do not bear this out. EEA appears to be a successful technique for the majority of midline craniopharyngiomas.