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.