The management of children with craniopharyngioma has evolved over time, with a trend toward less invasive neurosurgical approaches as surgeons have sought to balance oncological control and treatment-related morbidity. To this end, the aim of this study was to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the current management of children with craniopharyngioma compared to the previous management methods used at the authors’ treatment center.
A prospectively maintained database was searched over a 14-year period between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2018, to identify all children 17 years of age or younger with a new diagnosis of craniopharyngioma. A retrospective case note review was performed for each child to extract data on the presentation, investigation, treatment, and outcome of their illness. Morbidity was assessed in the same fashion as in previous cohorts, according to the following categories: visual loss, pituitary dysfunction, hypothalamic dysfunction, neurological deficits, and cognitive impairment.
In total, 59 children were identified with craniopharyngioma during the study period. A total of 92 operations were performed, including cyst drainage (35/92; 38.0%), craniotomy and resection (30/92; 32.6%), and transsphenoidal resection (16/92; 17.4%). Approximately two-thirds of all operations were performed using image guidance (66/92; 71.7%) and one-third were performed using endoscopy (27/92; 29.3%). The majority of children had adjuvant therapy comprising proton beam therapy (18/59; 30.5%) or conventional radiotherapy (16/59; 27.1%). The median follow-up duration was 44 months (range 1–142 months), and approximately one-half of the children had no evidence of residual disease on MRI studies (28/59; 47.5%). Of the remaining 31 children, there was a reduction in the volume of residual disease in 8 patients (8/59; 13.6%), stable residual disease in 18 (18/59; 30.5%), and tumor growth in 5 patients (5/59; 8.5%). There was significantly reduced morbidity (p < 0.05) in all categories in the current cohort compared with our last cohort (1996–2004).
The authors’ institutional experience of pediatric craniopharyngioma confirms a trend toward less invasive neurosurgical procedures, most of which are now performed with the benefit of image guidance or endoscopy. Moreover, the authors have identified an expanding role for more targeted radiotherapy for children with residual disease. These advances have allowed for tumor control comparable to that achieved in previous cohorts, but with significantly reduced morbidity and mortality.