Predictors of extent of resection and recurrence following endoscopic endonasal resection of craniopharyngioma

J Neurosurg 139:1235–1246, 2023

Craniopharyngioma is a benign but surgically challenging brain tumor. Controversies exist regarding its ideal treatment strategy, goals of surgery, efficacy of radiation, and the long-term outcomes of these decisions. The authors of this study performed a detailed analysis of factors predictive of the extent of resection and recurrence in large series of craniopharyngiomas removed via an endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA) with long-term follow-up.

METHODS From a prospective database of all EEAs done at Weill Cornell Medical College by the senior author from 2004 to 2022, a consecutive series of histologically proven craniopharyngiomas were identified. Gross-total resection (GTR) was generally the goal of surgery. Radiation was often given if GTR had not been achieved. The stalk was preserved if not infiltrated with tumor but was sacrificed to achieve GTR. Intentional subtotal resection (STR) was performed in select cases to avoid hypothalamic injury.

RESULTS Among the 111 identified cases were 88 adults and 23 children. Newly diagnosed cases comprised 58.6% of the series. GTR was attempted in 77.5% of the patients and among those cases was achieved in 89.5% of treatmentnaive tumors and 72.4% of recurrent tumors. An inability to achieve GTR was predicted by prior surgical treatment (OR 0.13, 95% CI 0.03–0.6, p = 0.009), tumor diameter ≥ 3.5 cm (OR 0.11, 95% CI 0.02–0.53, p = 0.006), and encasement of the optic nerve or a major artery (OR 0.11, 95% CI 0.01–0.8, p = 0.03). GTR with stalk preservation maintained some anterior pituitary function in 64.5% of cases and prevented diabetes insipidus in 25.8%. After a median follow-up of 51 months (IQR 17–80 months), the recurrence rate after GTR was 12.5% compared with 38.5% after non-GTR. The median recurrence-free survival was 5.5 years after STR, 8.3 years after near-total resection (≥ 98%), and not reached after GTR (p = 0.004, log-rank test). GTR was the strongest predictor of recurrence-free survival (OR 0.09, 95% CI 0.02–0.42, p = 0.002), whereas radiation did not show a statistically significant impact (OR 1.17, 95% CI 0.45–3.08). In GTR cases, the recurrence rate was higher if the stalk had been preserved (22.6%) as opposed to a sacrificed stalk (4.9%; OR 5.69, 95% CI 1.09–29.67).

CONCLUSIONS The study data show that GTR should be the goal of surgery in craniopharyngiomas if it can be achieved safely. Although stalk preservation can maintain some endocrine function, the risk of recurrence is higher in such cases. Radiation may not be as effective as previously reported.

Minimally invasive surgery for spinal cerebrospinal fluid leaks in spontaneous intracranial hypotension

J Neurosurg Spine 38:147–152, 2023

Spinal CSF leaks cause spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH). Surgical closure of spinal CSF leaks is the treatment of choice for persisting leaks. Surgical approaches vary, and there are no studies in which minimally invasive techniques were used. In this study, the authors aimed to detail the safety and feasibility of minimally invasive microsurgical sealing of spinal CSF leaks using nonexpandable tubular retractors.

METHODS Consecutive patients with SIH and a confirmed spinal CSF leak treated at a single institution between April 2019 and December 2020 were included in the study. Surgery was performed via a dorsal 2.5-cm skin incision using nonexpandable tubular retractors and a tailored interlaminar fenestration and, if needed, a transdural approach. The primary outcome was successful sealing of the dura, and the secondary outcome was the occurrence of complications.

RESULTS Fifty-eight patients, 65.5% of whom were female (median age 46 years [IQR 36–55 years]), with 38 ventral leaks, 17 lateral leaks, and 2 CSF venous fistulas were included. In 56 (96.6%) patients, the leak could be closed, and in 2 (3.4%) patients the leak was missed because of misinterpretation of the imaging studies. One of these patients underwent successful reoperation, and the other patient decided to undergo surgery at another institution. Two other patients had to undergo reoperation because of insufficient closure and a persisting leak. The rate of permanent neurological deficit was 1.7%, the revision rate for a persisting or recurring leak was 3.4%, and the overall revision rate was 10.3%. The rate of successful sealing during the primary closure attempt was 96.6% and 3.4% patients needed a secondary attempt. Clinical short-term outcome at discharge was unchanged in 14 patients and improved in 25 patients, and 19 patients had signs of rebound intracranial hypertension.

CONCLUSIONS Minimally invasive surgery with tubular retractors and a tailored interlaminar fenestration and, if needed, a transdural approach is safe and effective for the treatment of spinal CSF leaks. The authors suggest performing a minimally invasive closure of spinal CSF leaks in specialized centers.

Risk factors associated with postoperative cerebrospinal fluid leak after endoscopic endonasal skull base surgery

J Neurosurg 128:1066–1071, 2018

The aim in this paper was to determine risk factors for the development of a postoperative CSF leak after an endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA) for resection of skull base tumors.

METHODS A retrospective review of patients who underwent EEA for the resection of intradural pathology between January 1997 and June 2012 was performed. Basic demographic data were collected, along with patient body mass index (BMI), tumor pathology, reconstruction technique, lumbar drainage, and outcomes.

RESULTS Of the 615 patients studied, 103 developed a postoperative CSF leak (16.7%). Sex and perioperative lumbar drainage did not affect CSF leakage rates. Posterior fossa tumors had the highest rate of CSF leakage (32.6%), followed by anterior skull base lesions (21.0%) and sellar/suprasellar lesions (9.9%) (p < 0.0001). There was a higher leakage rate for overweight and obese patients (BMI > 25 kg/m2) than for those with a healthy-weight BMI (18.7% vs 11.5%; p = 0.04). Patients in whom a pedicled vascularized flap was used for reconstruction had a lower leakage rate than those in whom a free graft was used (13.5% vs 27.8%; p = 0.0015). In patients with a BMI > 25 kg/m2, the use of a pedicled flap reduced the rate of CSF leakage from 29.5% to 15.0% (p = 0.001); in patients of normal weight, this reduction did not reach statistical significance (21.9% [pedicled flap] vs 9.2% [free graft]; p = 0.09).

CONCLUSIONS Preoperative BMI > 25 kg/m2 and tumor location in the posterior fossa were associated with higher rates of postoperative CSF leak. Use of a pedicled vascularized flap may be associated with reduced risk of a CSF leak, particularly in overweight patients.

Combined vascularized tissue flaps for skull base fracture repair

Extensive traumatic anterior skull base fractures with cerebrospinal fluid leak

J Neurosurg 124:647–656, 2016

This article introduces a classification scheme for extensive traumatic anterior skull base fracture to help stratify surgical treatment options. The authors describe their multilayer repair technique for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak resulting from extensive anterior skull base fracture using a combination of laterally pediculated temporalis fascial– pericranial, nasoseptal-pericranial, and anterior pericranial flaps.

Methods: Retrospective chart review identified patients treated surgically between January 2004 and May 2014 for anterior skull base fractures with CSF fistulas. All patients were treated with bifrontal craniotomy and received pedicled tissue flaps. Cases were classified according to the extent of fracture: Class I (frontal bone/sinus involvement only); Class II (extent of involvement to ethmoid cribriform plate); and Class III (extent of involvement to sphenoid bone/sinus). Surgical repair techniques were tailored to the types of fractures. Patients were assessed for CSF leak at follow-up. The Fisher exact test was applied to investigate whether the repair techniques were associated with persistent postoperative CSF leak.

Results: Forty-three patients were identified in this series. Thirty-seven (86%) were male. The patients’ mean age was 33 years (range 11–79 years). The mean overall length of follow-up was 14 months (range 5–45 months). Six fractures were classified as Class I, 8 as Class II, and 29 as Class III. The anterior pericranial flap alone was used in 33 patients (77%). Multiple flaps were used in 10 patients (3 salvage) (28%)—1 with Class II and 9 with Class III fractures. Five (17%) of the 30 patients with Class II or III fractures who received only a single anterior pericranial flap had persistent CSF leak (p < 0.31). No CSF leak was found in patients who received multiple flaps. Although postoperative CSF leak occurred only in high-grade fractures with single anterior flap repair, this finding was not significant.

Conclusions: Extensive anterior skull base fractures often require aggressive treatment to provide the greatest longterm functional and cosmetic benefits. Several vascularized tissue flaps can be used, either alone or in combination. Vascularized flaps are an ideal substrate for cranial base repair. Dual and triple flap techniques that combine the use of various anterior, lateral, and nasoseptal flaps allow for a comprehensive arsenal in multilayered skull base repair and salvage therapy for extensive and severe fractures.

Avoidance of postoperative epistaxis and anosmia in endonasal endoscopic skull base surgery

Avoid anosmia and epistaxis in EEA

Acta Neurochir (2014) 156:1393–1401

Most endoscopic transsphenoidal approaches jeopardize the sphenopalatine artery and septal olfactory strip (SOS), increasing the risk of postoperative anosmia and epistaxis while precluding the ability to raise pedicled nasoseptal flaps (NSF). We describe a bilateral “rescue flap” technique that preserves the mucosa containing the nasal-septal vascular pedicles and the SOS. This approach can reduce the risk of postoperative complications, including epistaxis and anosmia.

Methods A retrospective analysis was conducted of all patients who underwent endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery with preservation of both sphenopalatine vascular pedicles and SOS. In a recent subset of patients, olfactory assessment was performed.

Results Of 174 consecutive operations performed in 161 patients, bilateral preservation of the sphenopalatine vascular pedicle and SOS was achieved in 139 (80 %) operations, including 31 (22 %) with prior transsphenoidal surgery. Of the remaining 35 operations, 18 had a planned formal NSF and 17 had prior surgery or extensive lesions precluding use of this technique. Of pituitary adenomas, RCCs or sellar arachnoid cysts, 118 (94 %) underwent this approach, including 91% of patients who had prior surgery. Preoperative olfaction function was maintained in 97 % of patients that were tested. None of the patients had postoperative arterial epistaxis.

Conclusion Preservation of bilateral sphenopalatine vascular pedicles and the SOS is feasible in over 90 % of patients undergoing endonasal endoscopic surgery for pituitary adenomas and RCCs. This approach, while not hindering exposure or limiting instrument maneuverability, preserves the nasoseptal vasculature for future NSF use if needed and appears to minimize the risks of postoperative arterial epistaxis and anosmia.

Intracranial hypotension producing reversible coma

J Neurosurg 117:615–628, 2012

Intracranial hypotension is a disorder of CSF hypovolemia due to iatrogenic or spontaneous spinal CSF leakage. Rarely, positional headaches may progress to coma, with frequent misdiagnosis. The authors review reported cases of verified intracranial hypotension–associated coma, including 3 previously unpublished cases, totaling 29. Most patients presented with headache prior to neurological deterioration, with positional symptoms elicited in almost half. Eight patients had recently undergone a spinal procedure such as lumbar drainage. Diagnostic workup almost always began with a head CT scan. Subdural collections were present in 86%; however, intracranial hypotension was frequently unrecognized as the underlying cause. Twelve patients underwent one or more procedures to evacuate the collections, sometimes with transiently improved mental status. However, no patient experienced lasting neurological improvement after subdural fluid evacuation alone, and some deteriorated further. Intracranial hypotension was diagnosed in most patients via MRI studies, which were often obtained due to failure to improve after subdural hematoma (SDH) evacuation. Once the diagnosis of intracranial hypotension was made, placement of epidural blood patches was curative in 85% of patients. Twenty-seven patients (93%) experienced favorable outcomes after diagnosis and treatment; 1 patient died, and 1 patient had a morbid outcome secondary to duret hemorrhages. The literature review revealed that numerous additional patients with clinical histories consistent with intracranial hypotension but no radiological confirmation developed SDH following a spinal procedure. Several such patients experienced poor outcomes, and there were multiple deaths. To facilitate recognition of this treatable but potentially life-threatening condition, the authors propose criteria that should prompt intracranial hypotension workup in the comatose patient and present a stepwise management algorithm to guide the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of these patients.


Repair of middle fossa cerebrospinal fluid leaks using a novel combination of materials

Neurosurg Focus 32 (6):E8, 2012. (

Methods for repairing middle fossa CSF (MFCSF) leaks have varied and yielded mixed results. The objective of this study was to evaluate the safety and durability of the authors’ repair technique using a novel combination of 3 synthetic materials.

Methods. The authors performed a retrospective case review of patients treated for CSF leaks between January 2009 and September 2011. Eight patients were found to have undergone middle fossa craniotomies for CSF leaks. Inclusion criteria for the study included age greater than 18 years, neuroimaging-documented temporal bone defect, and symptoms consistent with CSF leaks or gross CSF otorrhea. Seven patients, 3 men and 4 women, met the inclusion criteria, and their charts were reviewed. Hydroxyapatite cement, collagen-based dural substitute matrix, and polyethylene glycol hydrogel sealant were used in all patients for the repair.

Results. In all patients the MFCSF leaks were successfully repaired. Initial presenting symptoms included CSF otorrhea in 4 patients (57.1%), hearing loss in 3 (42.9%), and CSF rhinorrhea in 1 (14.3%). The mean follow-up duration was 12 months (range 5–33 months). In 1 patient an epidural hematoma developed at the operative site on postoperative Day 2, and in another patient a superficial wound dehiscence occurred on postoperative Day 48. During the follow-up period, the authors found no evidence of wound infections, neurovascular damage, or CSF leakage requiring reoperation.

Conclusions. The middle fossa approach involving a combination of hydroxyapatite cement, collagen-based dural substitute matrix, and polyethylene glycol hydrogel sealant is a safe, effective method for repairing MFCSF leaks. The combination of synthetic materials provides an alternative to existing materials for skull base surgeons.

High-viscosity polymethylmethacrylate cement for endoscopic anterior cranial base reconstruction

J Neurosurg 113:1100–1105, 2010. (DOI: 10.3171/2010.3.JNS09453)

Endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery (ETSS) is an effective, minimally invasive approach for the resection of anterior skull base tumors. Cerebrospinal leakage is a common complication, and repair of the anterior skull base defect with alloplastic materials has been used to minimize the risk of postoperative CSF rhinorrhea and meningitis. Injectable cements, such as low-viscosity polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), are useful for cranial base reconstruction because they are easy to shape to the contour of the defect. These low-viscosity materials, however, are more susceptible to leakage into the nasal cavity prohibiting their use and are prone to cracking upon hardening. Cement extravasation not only obstructs the operator’s view during placement, but it is also associated with significant local and systemic complications. High-viscosity (HV) PMMA–based cement and its specialized delivery system have recently been shown to be safe and effective in human applications. Moreover, its constant high viscosity significantly reduces cement leakage and its associated complications.

The authors hypothesized that this type of cement would therefore be ideal for ETSS to repair anterior skull base defects. The authors report their experience using HV-PMMA to reconstruct the anterior skull base in 12 patients following ETSS. The unique puttylike consistency of this material is easy to work, malleable, does not leak into the nasal cavity, does not aspirate into suction tubing, and hardens without cracks in less than 10 minutes. None of the 12 patients suffered postoperative CSF leaks or infections more than 8 months, on average, after surgery.

Although not necessary in all cases of ETSS, the authors conclude that HV-PMMA, if needed, may be an excellent choice for reconstructing the anterior skull base after ETSS. Further studies are needed to better assess the long-term outcomes of HV-PMMA cement and its use in repairing skull base defects after extended ETSS.