Objectives: Total surgical resection is the gold standard in the treatment of craniopharyngioma. However, there is concern that aggressive surgical resection might result in high rates of endocrinologic, metabolic, and behavioral morbidities. Subtotal resection (SR) with subsequent radiation therapy (RT) may reduce surgical complications, but it may also increase the risk of tumor recurrence and radiation-induced side effects. Therefore, the optimal surgical strategy remains debatable. Methods: To determine the optimal surgical strategy, we assessed the clinical courses of 39 patients (19 male patients and 20 female patients) with newly diagnosed craniopharyngioma who were treated at our institute. The median age at diagnosis was 34 years (range: 0-76 years). The median follow-up period was 8.5 years (range: 3-160 months). Our treatment strategy comprised gross total resection (GTR) for craniopharyngioma in patients that were not at surgical risk. Conversely, after adequate tumor decompression, we used RT, mainly Gamma Knife radiosurgery, in patients at risk. We divided the patients into the following three groups depending on the treatment course: GTR, SR with RT, and SR with staged surgery. We compared tumor characteristics, as well as patients' conditions at the preoperative stage and last follow-up, among the three groups. Results: There were 8, 21, and 10 patients in the GTR, SR with RT, and SR with staged surgery groups, respectively. There were no differences in the maximum tumor diameter, tumor volume, composition, and presence of calcification among the groups. Among the 39 patients, 24 underwent transcranial microsurgery and 15 underwent trans-sphenoidal surgery as the initial treatment. No cases involving surgical mortality, cerebrospinal fluid leakage, severely deteriorated visual function, or severe hypothalamic damage were observed. No tumor recurrence was noted in the GTR group. One patient required additional RT, and one patient underwent second surgery for tumor recurrence in the SR with RT group. In the SR with staged surgery group, 8 of the 10 patients eventually underwent RT, but tumor control was achieved in all patients at the latest follow-up. In this group, the third trans-sphenoidal surgery caused a severe vascular injury in one patient. At the final follow-up, 33 (85%) patients were undergoing anterior pituitary hormone replacement, and the rate of diabetes insipidus was 51%. There was no significant difference in the pituitary dysfunction rate among the groups. Conclusions: We observed a low rate of surgical complications and a sufficient tumor control rate in response to our treatment strategy. Despite attempting preservation of the pituitary stalk, we found it difficult to rescue anterior pituitary function.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes