Background: Most giant cell tumors (GCT) occur at the ends of long bones. There is little information about GCT of the skull bones.
Methods: The authors reviewed the Mayo Clinic files, which contained 546 cases of GCT, and their own consultation files, which contained approximately 1500 cases.
Results: Eleven tumors occurred in the sphenoid bone with extension to the surrounding bones and structures in 8 patients. One tumor (in Paget's disease) occurred in the frontal bone, one tumor was in the occipital bone, and one tumor was in the temporal bone. There were 4 men and 11 women whose ages ranged from 8 to 78 years, with a mean of 36.5 years. Radiographic findings were not suggestive of a specific diagnosis, although the features were those of an aggressive lesion. Histologically, the tumors had features typical of GCT. However, a prominent spindle cell component was seen in five tumors. The initial treatment in all patients but one was intralesional excision that was as complete as possible. The last patient had a wide excision and had soft tissue recurrence at 1 year. This was excised and she was free of disease at 2.7 years. Three patients died, one in the immediate postoperative period and the other two at 1.6 and 4 years with progression of tumor. One patient had postoperative radiation therapy and was without evidence of disease for 2 years when he was lost to follow-up. The remaining 10 patients all had postoperative radiation therapy; 6 patients were alive without disease from 4 to 34 years. However, one of these six patients had a recurrence that was treated surgically with additional radiation. Four patients were alive with tumor from 2.1 to 26 years at the time of this report.
Conclusions: GCT of the skull bones is rare but should be distinguished from giant cell reparative granuloma because of the tendency for progression. Surgical ablation (as complete as possible) and postoperative radiation therapy seem to be the treatment of choice for GCT of the skull bones.