Surgical resection of skull-base chordomas: experience in case selection for surgical approach according to anatomical compartments and review of the literature

Acta Neurochir (2017) 159:1835–1845

Chordoma is a rare bony malignancy known to have a high rate of local recurrence after surgery. The best treatment paradigm is still being evaluated. We report our experience and review the literature. We emphasize on the difference between endoscopic and open craniotomy in regard to the anatomical compartment harboring the tumor, the limitations of the approaches and the rate of surgical resection.

Method: We retrospectively collected all patients with skullbase chordomas operated on between 2004 and 2014. Detailed radiological description of the compartments being occupied by the tumor and the degree of surgical resection is discussed.

Results: Eighteen patients were operated on in our facility for skull-base chordoma. Seventeen endoscopic surgeries were done in 15 patients, and 7 craniotomies were done in 5 patients. The mean age was 48.9 years (±19.8 years). When reviewing the anatomical compartments, we found that the most common were the upper clivus (95.6%) and lower clivus (58.3%), left cavernous sinus (66.7%) and petrous apex (∼60%). Most of the patients had intradural tumor involvement (70.8%). In all craniotomy cases, there was residual tumor in multiple compartments. In the endoscopic cases, the most difficult compartments for total resection were the lower clivus, and lateral extensions to the petrous apex or cavernous sinus.

Conclusions: Our experience shows that the endoscopic approach is a good option for midline tumors without significant lateral extension. In cases with very lateral or lower extensions, additional approaches should be added trying to achieve complete resection.