Tumors of the skull base in children and adolescents

Fadi Hanbali M.D. 1 , Peyman Tabrizi M.D. 1 , Frederick F. Lang M.D. 1 and Franco DeMonte M.D., F.R.C.S.(C) 1
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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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Object. Published data obtained in children with tumors of the skull base are sparse. In the majority of the available reports, the authors focus on the technical application of skull base approaches, but they contribute a paucity of information on the management of specific tumors, especially malignant skull base lesions. The purposes of this report are to increase the collective experience with the treatment of these tumors and to identify successful management paradigms.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed the clinical records, pathological reports, and diagnostic images obtained in 24 children (≤ 19 years of age) with tumors arising from the cranial base in whom resection was part of their management between 1992 and 2002. Surgery-related complications and outcomes were analyzed with regard to tumor type and surgical approach.

The median age of the group was 14 years. Tumors involved the anterior skull base in eight (33%), the middle skull base in 10 (42%), both the anterior and middle skull base in four (17%), and the posterior skull base in two patients (8%). Benign lesions were discovered in 11 patients (46%) and malignant neoplasms in 13 (54%). The tumors were most commonly of mesenchymal origin (21 [87.5%] of 24 tumors). Thirty surgical procedures were performed using a number of skull base approaches. A gross-total resection was achieved in 23 procedures (77%) and a subtotal resection in five (17%); a biopsy procedure was performed in one case; and the disease process could not be accessed in one case. One patient died in the perioperative period. Minor complications (Karnofsky Performance Scale score ≥ 90, no prolongation of hospital stay, and no further surgery needed) occurred following 10 (33%) of the 30 surgical procedures. These affected 10 (42%) of the 24 patients and resulted in persistent or prolonged deficits in only five patients (21%). In nine patients (38%) the tumor recurred after a mean duration of 23 months.

Conclusions. Skull base tumors in children affect mainly the anterior and middle cranial fossa. Sarcomas account for the majority of malignant tumors. Treatment of skull base tumors in children and adolescents needs to be tailored to patient age, tumor location, and tumor type.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Franco DeMonte, M.D., F.R.C.S.(C)., Department of Neurosurgery, Box 442, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77030. email: fdemonte@mdanderson.org.
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