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.