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G. Edward Vates, Mitchel S. Berger, and Charles B. Wilson

Object. Pituitary abscess is a rare but serious intrasellar infection. To better determine the salient signs and symptoms that help in making the diagnosis, and to determine the most appropriate treatment, the authors reviewed their experience in a series of 24 patients treated at the University of California at San Francisco.

Methods. Nine of the patients were female and 15 were male, and their mean age was 41.2 years (range 12–71 years). Surprisingly, most patients in our series presented with complaints and physical findings consistent with a pituitary mass, but rarely with evidence of a serious infection. Headache, endocrine abnormalities, and visual changes were the most common clinical indicators; fever, peripheral leukocytosis, and meningismus were present in 33% or fewer of the patients. Imaging tests demonstrated a pituitary mass in all patients, but the features evident on computerized tomography and magnetic resonance studies did not distinguish pituitary abscesses from other, more common intrasellar lesions. Because of the ambiguous clinical features and imaging findings, most abscesses were not diagnosed before treatment; rather, the diagnosis was made during surgical exploration of the sella turcica, when the surgeon encountered a cystic mass containing pus. There were only two deaths in this series (8.3%). Patients presenting with headache and visual changes noted improvement in almost all cases; patients with endocrine dysfunction generally did not recover normal pituitary function, but were easily treated with hormone replacement therapy.

Conclusions. Antibiotic therapy is suggested for patients who have symptoms of sepsis, or for patients in whom specific organisms are identified from cultures obtained during surgery. The transsphenoidal approach is recommended over open craniotomy for surgical drainage.

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Mitchel S. Berger and Charles B. Wilson

✓ Epidermoid cysts originating in the paramedian basal cisterns of the posterior fossa are congenital lesions that grow to a large size through slow accumulation of desquamated epithelium. These lesions grow between and ultimately displace cranial nerves, vascular structures, and the brain stem, causing a long course of progressive neurological deficits. The onset of symptoms usually occurs during the fourth decade of life. Epidermoid cysts are easily diagnosed with computerized tomography scans, which characteristically show a low-density extra-axial pattern. The primary surgical objective is to decompress the mass by evacuating the cyst contents and removing nonadherent portions of the tumor capsule; portions of the capsule adherent to vital structures should be left undisturbed. Aseptic meningitis is the most common cause of postoperative morbidity, and its incidence may be minimized by intraoperative irrigation with steroids followed by systemic therapy with dexamethasone. Symptomatic recurrences that occur many years after surgery should be managed with conservative reoperation.

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Intracranial dissecting aneurysms of the posterior circulation

Report of six cases and review of the literature

Mitchel S. Berger and Charles B. Wilson

✓ Dissecting aneurysms of the intracranial posterior circulation are unusual lesions that affect otherwise healthy young adults, are difficult to diagnose and manage, and carry a high morbidity and mortality rate. Headache in the suboccipital-posterior cervical region is the most common presenting symptom. The dissection usually occurs between the intima or internal elastic lamina and the media; subadventitial dissection does occur and accounts for the infrequent finding of subarachnoid hemorrhage. A deficit in the inner layers of the vessel is the proposed source of dissection. The angiographic features are inconsistent, although an irregularly narrowed arterial segment with proximal and/or distal dilatation are typical findings. Depending on the location of the dissection, the surgical options are: ligation, trapping, or reinforcement of exposed abnormal portions of the vessel. Anticoagulation therapy is not indicated in the management of this lesion.

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Primary cerebral neuroblastoma

Long-term follow-up review and therapeutic guidelines

Mitchel S. Berger, Michael S. B. Edwards, William M. Wara, Victor A. Levin, and Charles B. Wilson

✓ Primary cerebral neuroblastoma is a distinct pathological and clinical entity that differs from other primitive neuroectodermal tumors. To characterize the clinical course of this lesion, the authors performed a retrospective analysis in 11 patients who ranged in age from 17 months to 26 years. The tumor had no predilection for either sex. Signs and symptoms were mostly those associated with increased intracranial pressure. The lesions commonly involved the parietal and occipital lobes. Computerized tomography scans of nine patients showed five solid and four cystic lesions; calcifications were found more commonly in the solid lesions. Contrast enhancement was seen in all tumors, yet angiograms typically showed an avascular mass. Total removal of tumor was possible in only two patients, both with cystic tumors. The remaining nine underwent subtotal resection of a solid lesion (in five) or a cystic lesion (in four). All 11 patients underwent postoperative irradiation that included the spinal axis in two cases; only one received adjuvant chemotherapy (solid tumor). Four patients, all with solid tumors that initially were subtotally resected, had evidence of tumor recurrence. The only patient with a subtotally resected solid lesion who did not have recurrence received adjuvant chemotherapy. The six patients who had cystic lesions are free of recurrent tumor at 26 to 109 months after surgery. Based on follow-up analysis of the 11 patients, recommendations are proposed for the treatment of primary cerebral neuroblastomas.