The proximity of craniopharyngiomas to vital neurovascular structures and their high recurrence rates make them one of the most challenging and controversial management dilemmas in neurosurgery. Endoscopic endonasal surgery (EES) has recently been introduced as a treatment option for both pediatric and adult craniopharyngiomas. The object of the present study was to present the results of EES and analyze outcome in both the pediatric and the adult age groups.
The authors retrospectively reviewed the records of patients with craniopharyngioma who had undergone EES in the period from June 1999 to April 2011.
Sixty-four patients, 47 adults and 17 children, were eligible for this study. Forty-seven patients had presented with primary craniopharyngiomas and 17 with recurrent tumors. The mean age in the adult group was 51 years (range 28–82 years); in the pediatric group, 9 years (range 4–18 years). Overall, the gross-total resection rate was 37.5% (24 patients); near-total resection (> 95% of tumor removed) was 34.4% (22 patients); subtotal resection (≥ 80% of tumor removed) 21.9% (14 patients); and partial resection (< 80% of tumor removed) 6.2% (4 patients). In 9 patients, EES had been combined with radiation therapy (with radiosurgery in 6 cases) as the initial treatment. Among the 40 patients (62.5%) who had presented with pituitary insufficiency, pituitary function remained unchanged in 19 (47.5%), improved or normalized in 8 (20%), and worsened in 13 (32.5%). In the 24 patients who had presented with normal pituitary function, new pituitary deficit occurred in 14 (58.3%). Nineteen patients (29.7%) suffered from diabetes insipidus at presentation, and the condition developed in 21 patients (46.7%) after treatment. Forty-four patients (68.8%) had presented with impaired vision. In 38 (86.4%) of them, vision improved or even normalized after surgery; in 5, it remained unchanged; and in 1, it temporarily worsened. One patient without preoperative visual problems showed temporary visual deterioration after treatment. Permanent visual deterioration occurred in no one after surgery. The mean follow-up was 38 months (range 1–135 months). Tumor recurrence after EES was discovered in 22 patients (34.4%) and was treated with repeat surgery (6 patients), radiosurgery (1 patient), combined repeat surgery and radiation therapy (8 patients), interferon (1 patient), or observation (6 patients). Surgical complications included 15 cases (23.4%) with CSF leakage that was treated with surgical reexploration (13 patients) and/or lumbar drain placement (9 patients). This leak rate was decreased to 10.6% in recent years after the introduction of the vascularized nasoseptal flap. Five cases (7.8%) of meningitis were found and treated with antibiotics without further complications. Postoperative hydrocephalus occurred in 7 patients (12.7%) and was treated with ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement. Five patients experienced transient cranial nerve palsies. There was no operative mortality.
With the goal of gross-total or maximum possible safe resection, EES can be used for the treatment of every craniopharyngioma, regardless of its location, size, and extension (excluding purely intraventricular tumors), and can provide acceptable results comparable to those for traditional craniotomies. Endoscopic endonasal surgery is not limited to adults and actually shows higher resection rates in the pediatric population.