The expanded endonasal endoscopic transsphenoidal approach has become increasingly used for craniopharyngioma surgery in the pediatric population, but questions still persist regarding its utility in younger children, in recurrent and irradiated tumors, and in masses primarily located in the suprasellar region. The narrow corridor, incomplete pneumatization, and fear of hypothalamic injury have traditionally relegated this approach to application in older children with mostly cystic craniopharyngiomas centered in the sella. The authors present a series of consecutive pediatric patients in whom the endonasal endoscopic approach was used to remove craniopharyngiomas from patients of varied ages, regardless of the location of the tumor and previous treatments or surgeries, to ascertain if the traditional concerns about limitations of this approach are worth reevaluating
Eleven consecutive pediatric patients (age ≤ 18 years) underwent surgery via an endoscopic transsphenoidal approach at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center from 2007 to 2016. The authors recorded the location, consistency, and size of the lesion, assessed for hypothalamic invasion radiographically, calculated skull base measurements, and assessed parameters such as extent of resection, visual function, endocrinological function, weight gain, and return-to-school status.
The average age at the time of surgery was 7.9 years (range 4–17 years) and the tumor sizes ranged from 1.3 to 41.7 cm 3. Five cases were purely suprasellar, 5 had solid components, 4 were reoperations, and 5 had a conchal sphenoid aeration. Nevertheless, gross-total resection was achieved in 45% of the patients and 50% of those in whom it was the goal of surgery, without any correlation with the location, tumor consistency, or the age of the patient. Near-total resection, subtotal resection, or biopsy was performed intentionally in the remaining patients to avoid hypothalamic injury. Anterior pituitary dysfunction occurred in 81.8% of the patients, and 63.3% developed diabetes insipidus . Two patients (18%) had a greater than 9% increase in body mass index. Visual function was stable or improved in 73%. All children returned to an academic environment, with 10 of them in the grade appropriate for their age. There was a single case of each of the following: CSF leak, loss of vision unilaterally, and abscess.
The endoscopic transsphenoidal approach is suitable for removing pediatric craniopharyngiomas even in young children with suprasellar tumors, conchal sphenoid sinus, recurrent tumors, and tumors with solid components. The extent of resection is dictated by intrinsic hypothalamic tumor invasiveness rather than the approach. The endoscopic transsphenoidal approach affords the ability to directly inspect the hypothalamus to determine invasion, which may help spare the patient from hypothalamic injury. Irrespective of approach, the rates of postoperative endocrinopathy remain high and the learning curve for the approach to a relatively rare tumor is steep.