The goal of this study was to characterize the complications and morbidity related to the surgical management of pediatric fourth ventricle tumors.
All patients referred to the authors’ institution with posterior fossa tumors from 2002 to 2018 inclusive were screened to include only true fourth ventricle tumors. Preoperative imaging and clinical notes were reviewed to extract data on presenting symptoms; surgical episodes, techniques, and adjuncts; tumor histology; and postoperative complications.
Three hundred fifty-four children with posterior fossa tumors were treated during the study period; of these, 185 tumors were in the fourth ventricle, and 167 fourth ventricle tumors with full data sets were included in this analysis. One hundred patients were male (mean age ± SD, 5.98 ± 4.12 years). The most common presenting symptom was vomiting (63.5%). The most common tumor types, in order, were medulloblastoma (94 cases) > pilocytic astrocytoma (30 cases) > ependymoma (30 cases) > choroid plexus neoplasms (5 cases) > atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor (4 cases), with 4 miscellaneous lesions. Of the 67.1% of patients who presented with hydrocephalus, 45.5% had an external ventricular drain inserted (66.7% of these prior to tumor surgery, 56.9% frontal); these patients were more likely to undergo ventriculoperitoneal shunt (VPS) placement at a later date (p = 0.00673). Twenty-two had an endoscopic third ventriculostomy, of whom 8 later underwent VPS placement. Overall, 19.7% of patients had a VPS sited during treatment.
Across the whole series, the transvermian approach was more frequent than the telovelar approach (64.1% vs 33.0%); however, the telovelar approach was significantly more common in the latter half of the series (p < 0.001). Gross-total resection was achieved in 70.7%. The most common postoperative deficit was cerebellar mutism syndrome (CMS; 28.7%), followed by new weakness (24.0%), cranial neuropathy (18.0%), and new gait abnormality/ataxia (12.6%). Use of intraoperative ultrasonography significantly reduced the incidence of CMS (p = 0.0365). There was no significant difference in the rate of CMS between telovelar or transvermian approaches (p = 0.745), and multivariate logistic regression modeling did not reveal any statistically significant relationships between CMS and surgical approach.
Surgical management of pediatric fourth ventricle tumors continues to evolve, and resection is increasingly performed through the telovelar route. CMS is enduringly the major postoperative complication in this patient population.