Clival chordomas: clinical management, results, and complications in 71 patients

J Neurosurg 113:1059–1071, 2010. DOI: 10.3171/2009.9.JNS08596

Chordomas are rare malignant neoplasms arising predominantly at the sacrum and skull base. They are uniformly lethal unless treated with aggressive resection and proton beam irradiation. The authors present results of the surgical management of a large number of patients with clivus chordomas. Factors that influence the surgeon’s ability to achieve radical tumor resection are also evaluated.

Methods. Between 1991 and 2005, 71 patients with clivus chordomas underwent surgery. The average followup was 66 months (median 60 months, range 3–189 months). Sixty-five patients had complete records that were analyzed in the present report. Thirty-five percent of them had undergone surgery before being treated by the authors. They were evaluated with MR imaging and CT scanning and underwent surgery utilizing a variety of skull base techniques aimed at achieving radical excision. Many also underwent postoperative radiation, usually in the form of proton beam therapy. The patients were followed up with serial imaging at regular intervals as well as with neurological evaluation.

Results. Radical tumor resection was achieved in 58% of the group. The overall 5-year survival rate was 75%. Radical resection had a positive impact on survival. The ability to achieve radical resection was dependent on the preoperative tumor volume and the number of anatomical areas involved by the tumor. Cranial nerve impairment and CSF leakage were the most frequent postoperative complications.

Conclusions. Radical excision is the ideal surgical goal in the treatment of clival chordomas and can be achieved with reasonable risks. Several different surgical approaches may be necessary to accomplish this.