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Rudolf Fahlbusch

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Rudolf Fahlbusch and Amir Samii

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Hussam Metwali, Venelin Gerganov and Rudolf Fahlbusch


Preservation of the pituitary stalk and its vasculature is a key step in good postoperative endocrinological outcome in patients with craniopharyngiomas. In this article, the authors describe the surgical technique of medial optic nerve mobilization for better inspection and preservation of the pituitary stalk.


This operative technique has been applied in 3 patients. Following tumor exposure via a frontolateral approach, the pituitary stalk could be seen partially hidden under the optic nerve and the optic chiasm. The subchiasmatic and opticocarotid spaces were narrow, and tumor dissection from the pituitary stalk under direct vision was not possible. The optic canal was therefore unroofed, the falciform ligament was incised, and the lateral part of the tuberculum sellae was drilled medial to the optic nerve. The optic nerve could be mobilized medially to widen the opticocarotid triangle, which enhanced visualization of and access to the pituitary stalk.


By using the optic nerve mobilization technique, the tumor could be removed completely, and the pituitary stalk and its vasculature were preserved in all patients. In 2 patients, vision improved after surgery, while in 1 patient it remained normal, as it was before surgery. The hormonal status remained normal after surgery in 2 patients. In the patient with preoperative hormonal deficiencies, improvement occurred early after surgery and hormonal levels were normal after 3 months. No approach-related complications occurred.


This early experience shows that this technique is safe and could be used as a complementary step during microsurgery of craniopharyngiomas. It allows for tumor dissection from the pituitary stalk under direct vision. The pituitary stalk can thus be preserved without jeopardizing the optic nerve.

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Tomoki Todo and Rudolf Fahlbusch

✓ In order to elucidate some of the signal transduction processes in human meningioma cells, the authors studied the effect of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and bromocriptine on inositol phospholipid hydrolysis, using low-passage human meningioma cells in culture. Epidermal growth factor is a well-studied mitogenic factor for meningioma cells, whereas bromocriptine is known to have an inhibitory effect on meningioma cell proliferation. The addition of EGF to meningioma cells caused stimulation of inositol phosphate accumulation in a dose-dependent manner at 60 minutes posttreatment, with the maximum effect (120% to 167% of control) achieved at a concentration of 10 ng/ml. Extraction of separate inositol phosphates revealed that inositol monophosphate (IP1) and inositol bisphosphate (IP2), but not inositol trisphosphate (IP3), accounted for the increase at 60 minutes. Kinetic analysis of EGF-stimulated inositol phospholipid hydrolysis showed that a sharp and transient increase in IP3 from 5 to 12 minutes post-EGF and a transient but more gradual increase in IP2 from 2 to 12 minutes post-EGF were followed by a gradual and steady increase in IP1, which was significantly greater than control after 5 minutes. On the other hand, long-term studies showed a down-regulation of inositol phosphate accumulation (a 64% decrease vs. control) after 7 days of treatment with EGF (10 ng/ml). Bromocriptine (5 µM) exhibited no significant effect on inositol phosphate accumulation at 60 minutes in four of five meningiomas studied. However, of two meningiomas studied with bromocriptine in combination with EGF, both showed a significant additive increase in inositol phosphate accumulation compared to those treated with EGF alone. The results suggest a close involvement of inositol phospholipid turnover in human meningioma cells in response to mitogenic stimulation by EGF.

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Rudolf Fahlbusch and Werner Schott

Object. The authors reviewed 47 cases of suprasellar meningiomas with special attention to ophthalmological and endocrinological outcomes.

Methods. All patients underwent surgery performed via a unilateral pterional approach between January 1983 and January 1998. Ophthalmological and endocrinological examinations were performed before the operation as well as 1 week and 3 months postoperatively. A special scoring system was adopted to quantify the extent of ophthalmological disturbances. Complete tumor resection was possible in all but one patient. There were no fatalities and the rate of visual improvement was 80%. The best prognoses were found in patients younger than 50 years and in patients in whom the duration of symptoms was less than 1 year. Before surgery, tumor-related endocrine disturbances were present in only three women who suffered from secondary hypogonadism; two of these patients recovered after surgery. Postoperatively, no patient needed replacement therapy for pituitary dysfunction. The overall tumor recurrence rate was 2.1% (one of 47 cases). For patients in whom long-term (> 5 years) follow-up data were available, the recurrence rate was 4.2% (one of 24 cases).

Conclusions. In this series, complete resection of suprasellar meningiomas was possible through a unilateral pterional craniotomy and was associated with a low morbidity rate and no deaths.

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Johann Romstöck, Christian Strauss and Rudolf Fahlbusch

Object. Electromyography (EMG) monitoring is expected to reduce the incidence of motor cranial nerve deficits in cerebellopontine angle surgery. The aim of this study was to provide a detailed analysis of intraoperative EMG phenomena with respect to their surgical significance.

Methods. Using a system that continuously records facial and lower cranial nerve EMG signals during the entire operative procedure, the authors examined 30 patients undergoing surgery on acoustic neuroma (24 patients) or meningioma (six patients). Free-running EMG signals were recorded from muscles targeted by the facial, trigeminal, and lower cranial nerves, and were analyzed off-line with respect to waveform characteristics, frequencies, and amplitudes. Intraoperative measurements were correlated with typical surgical maneuvers and postoperative outcomes.

Characteristic EMG discharges were obtained: spikes and bursts were recorded immediately following the direct manipulation of a dissecting instrument near the cranial nerve, but also during periods when the nerve had not yet been exposed. Bursts could be precisely attributed to contact activity. Three distinct types of trains were identified: A, B, and C trains. Whereas B and C trains are irrelevant with respect to postoperative outcome, the A train—a sinusoidal, symmetrical sequence of high-frequency and low-amplitude signals—was observed in 19 patients and could be well correlated with additional postoperative facial nerve paresis (in 18 patients).

Conclusions. It could be demonstrated that the occurrence of A trains is a highly reliable predictor for postoperative facial palsy. Although some degree of functional worsening is to be expected postoperatively, there is a good chance of avoiding major deficits by warning the surgeon early. Continuous EMG monitoring is superior to electrical nerve stimulation or acoustic loudspeaker monitoring alone. The detailed analysis of EMG-waveform characteristics is able to provide more accurate warning criteria during surgery.

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Rudolf Fahlbusch, Michael Buchfelder and Uwe Schrell

✓ During a period of 3 years, 25 patients with intra- and extrasellar macroprolactinomas were pretreated with dopamine agonists for a period of 2 to 6½ weeks prior to transsphenoidal microsurgical tumor resection. Dopamine agonists were administered orally to 17 patients, intramuscularly to three patients, and both orally and intramuscularly to five patients. Repeated computerized tomography (CT) examinations revealed that all neoplasms except one cystic tumor were reduced in size during the course of dopamine-agonist administration. No complications attributable to medical pretreatment were observed. Tumor shrinkage increased the efficacy of surgery, especially in cases with considerable extrasellar extension of the adenomas. Within 3 months following adenomectomy, prolactin levels were adjusted to normal levels in 19 patients by additional low-dose treatment with dopamine agonists. Thin-collimation CT assessments performed at least 3 months after surgery showed no evidence of residual tumor tissue in 23 patients. It is concluded that administration of dopamine agonists for some weeks prior to surgery is a useful adjunct to transsphenoidal microsurgery for macroprolactinomas. The new injectable form of bromocriptine is particularly valuable for this purpose.

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Christian Strauss, Johann Romstöck, Christopher Nimsky and Rudolf Fahlbusch

✓ Intraoperative electrical identification of motor areas within the floor of the fourth ventricle was successfully carried out in a series of 10 patients with intrinsic pontine lesions and lesions infiltrating the brain stem. Direct electrical stimulation was used to identify the facial colliculus and the hypoglossal triangle before the brain stem was entered. Multichannel electromyographic recordings documented selective stimulation effects. The surgical approach to the brain stem was varied according to the electrical localization of these structures. During removal of the lesion, functional integrity was monitored by intermittent stimulation. In lesions infiltrating the floor of the fourth ventricle, stimulation facilitated complete removal. Permanent postoperative morbidity of facial or hypoglossal nerve dysfunction was not observed. Mapping of the floor of the fourth ventricle identifies important surface structures and offers a safe corridor through intact nervous structures during surgery of brain-stem lesions. Reliable identification is particularly important in mass lesions with displacement of normal topographical anatomy.

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Jürgen Honegger, Michael Buchfelder and Rudolf Fahlbusch

This study aimed to elucidate the endocrine outcome of craniopharyngioma surgery. In particular, endocrine results were analyzed in relation to the surgical approach. The study includes 161 patients who underwent pre- and postoperative endocrine assessment, 143 of whom had not previously undergone surgery.

Diabetes insipidus was the most common postoperative deficiency in both the transcranial and transsphenoidal groups. In the case of primary surgery (surgery as initial therapy), the overall percentage of patients with diabetes insipidus increased from 16.1% preoperatively to 59.4% postoperatively. After transcranial surgery, the rate of anterior pituitary deficiency also increased. However, normal preoperative anterior pituitary function was maintained in more than 50% of patients for each endocrine axis. Similar results were attained in the group of patients undergoing complete tumor removal. The best result was achieved for gonadal function: the incidence of hypogonadism increased only slightly from 77.4 to 79.8%. During transsphenoidal surgery, anterior pituitary function was generally preserved. An additional deficient axis was encountered postoperatively in only four (11.4%) of 35 primary surgery cases. Endocrine results were not inferior in patients with a ventrally displaced pituitary. This variant required midline incision of the gland for exposure of the craniopharyngioma. Panhypopituitarism was encountered in only one of eight patients in whom the pituitary stalk was partially resected because of tumor infiltration. None of the 88 patients who remained recurrence-free demonstrated endocrine deterioration during follow-up review, compared with the early postoperative assessment 3 months postsurgery. On the other hand, complete recovery of one endocrine axis was observed in nine of these patients during later follow-up evaluations. In five of them, diabetes insipidus had regressed.

The authors conclude that it is worth preserving the pituitary stalk and gland at surgery because anterior pituitary function is more often maintained than is generally believed. Postoperative diabetes insipidus must be accepted as a consequence of complete removal of the pituitary. However, pituitary function may recover and diabetes insipidus in particular may abate with time.