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Alexander Micko, Benjamin I. Rapoport, Brett E. Youngerman, Reginald P. Fong, Jennifer Kosty, Andrew Brunswick, Shane Shahrestani, Gabriel Zada, and Theodore H. Schwartz


Incomplete resection of skull base pathology may result in local tumor recurrence. This study investigates the utility of 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) fluorescence during endoscopic endonasal approaches (EEAs) to increase visibility of pathologic tissue.


This retrospective multicenter series comprises patients with planned resection of an anterior skull base lesion who received preoperative 5-ALA at two tertiary care centers. Diagnostic use of a blue light endoscope was performed during EEA for all cases. Demographic and tumor characteristics as well as fluorescence status, quality, and homogeneity were assessed for each skull base pathology.


Twenty-eight skull base pathologies underwent blue-light EEA with preoperative 5-ALA, including 15 pituitary adenomas (54%), 4 meningiomas (14%), 3 craniopharyngiomas (11%), 2 Rathke’s cleft cysts (7%), as well as plasmacytoma, esthesioneuroblastoma, and sinonasal squamous cell carcinoma. Of these, 6 (21%) of 28 showed invasive growth into surrounding structures such as dura, bone, or compartments of the cavernous sinus. Tumor fluorescence was detected in 2 cases (7%), with strong fluorescence in 1 tuberculum sellae meningioma and vague fluorescence in 1 pituicytoma. In all other cases fluorescence was absent. Faint fluorescence of the normal pituitary gland was seen in 1 (7%) of 15 cases. A comparison between the particular tumor entities as well as a correlation between invasiveness, WHO grade, Ki-67, and positive fluorescence did not show any significant association.


With the possible exception of meningiomas, 5-ALA fluorescence has limited utility in the majority of endonasal skull base surgeries, although other pathology may be worth investigating.