Surgical management of craniopharyngiomas (CPAs) is challenging. Controversy exists regarding the optimal goals of surgery. The purpose of this study was to compare the long-term outcomes of patients who underwent gross-total resection with the outcomes of those who underwent subtotal resection of their CPA via an endoscopic endonasal approach.
From a prospectively maintained database of all endoscopic endonasal approaches performed at Weill Cornell Medicine, only patients with CPAs with > 3 years of follow-up after surgery were included. The primary endpoint was radiographic progression. Data were collected on baseline demographics, imaging, endocrine function, visual function, and extent of resection.
A total of 44 patients with a mean follow-up of 5.7 ± 2.6 years were included. Of these patients, 14 (31.8%) had prior surgery. GTR was achieved in 77.3% (34/44) of all patients and 89.5% (34/38) of patients in whom it was the goal of surgery. Preoperative tumor volume < 10 cm3 was highly predictive of GTR (p < 0.001). Radiation therapy was administered within the first 3 months after surgery in 1 (2.9%) of 34 patients with GTR and 7 (70%) of 10 patients with STR (p < 0.001). The 5-year recurrence-free/progression-free survival rate was 75.0% after GTR and 25.0% after STR (45% in subgroup with STR plus radiotherapy; p < 0.001). The time to recurrence after GTR was 30.2 months versus 13 months after STR (5.8 months in subgroup with STR plus radiotherapy; p < 0.001). Patients with GTR had a lower rate of visual deterioration and higher rate of return to work or school compared with those with STR (p = 0.02). Patients with GTR compared to STR had a lower rate of CSF leakage (0.0% vs 30%, p = 0.001) but a higher rate of diabetes insipidus (85.3% vs 50%, p = 0.02).
GTR, which is possible to achieve in smaller tumors, resulted in improved tumor control, better visual outcome, and better functional recovery but a higher rate of diabetes insipidus compared with STR, even when the latter was supplemented with postoperative radiation therapy. GTR should be the goal of craniopharyngioma surgery, when achievable with minimal morbidity.