Objective: The authors previously described a graded approach to skull base repair following endonasal microscopic or endoscope-assisted tumor surgery. In this paper they review their experience with skull base reconstruction in the endoscopic era.
Methods: A retrospective review of a single-institution endonasal endoscopic patient database (April 2010–April 2017) was undertaken. Intraoperative CSF leaks were graded based on size (grade 0 [no leak], 1, 2, or 3), and repair technique was documented across grades. The series was divided into 2 epochs based on implementation of a strict perioperative antibiotic protocol and more liberal use of permanent and/or temporary buttresses; repair failure rates and postoperative meningitis rates were assessed for the 2 epochs and compared.
Results: In total, 551 operations were performed in 509 patients for parasellar pathology, including pituitary adenoma (66%), Rathke’s cleft cyst (7%), meningioma (6%), craniopharyngioma (4%), and other (17%). Extended approaches were used in 41% of cases. There were 9 postoperative CSF leaks (1.6%) and 6 cases of meningitis (1.1%). Postoperative leak rates for all 551 operations by grade 0, 1, 2, and 3 were 0%, 1.9%, 3.1%, and 4.8%, respectively. Fat grafts were used in 33%, 84%, 97%, and 100% of grade 0, 1, 2, and 3 leaks, respectively. Pedicled mucosal flaps (78 total) were used in 2.6% of grade 0–2 leaks (combined) and 79.5% of grade 3 leaks (60 nasoseptal and 6 middle turbinate flaps). Nasoseptal flap usage was highest for craniopharyngioma operations (80%) and lowest for pituitary adenoma operations (2%). Two (3%) nasoseptal flaps failed. Contributing factors for the 9 repair failures were BMI ≥ 30 (7/9), lack of buttress (4/9), grade 3 leak (4/9), and postoperative vomiting (4/9). Comparison of the epochs showed that grade 1–3 repair failures decreased from 6/143 (4.1%) to 3/141 (2.1%) and grade 1–3 meningitis rates decreased from 5 (3.5%) to 1 (0.7%) (p = 0.08). Prophylactic lumbar CSF drainage was used in only 4 cases (< 1%), was associated with a higher meningitis rate in grades 1–3 (25% vs 2%), and was discontinued in 2012. Comparison of the 2 epochs showed increase buttress use in the second, with use of a permanent buttress in grade 1 and 3 leaks increasing from 13% to 55% and 32% to 76%, respectively (p < 0.001), and use of autologous septal/keel bone as a permanent buttress in grade 1, 2, and 3 leaks increasing from 15% to 51% (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: A graded approach to skull base repair after endonasal surgery remains valid in the endoscopic era. However, the technique has evolved significantly, with further reduction of postoperative CSF leak rates. These data suggest that buttresses are beneficial for repair of most grade 1 and 2 leaks and all grade 3 leaks. Similarly, pedicled flaps appear advantageous for grade 3 leaks, while CSF diversion may be unnecessary and a risk factor for meningitis. High BMI should prompt an aggressive multilayered repair strategy. Achieving repair failure and meningitis rates lower than 1% is a reasonable goal in endoscopic skull base tumor surgery.
Keywords: CNS = Congress of Neurological Surgeons; POD = postoperative day; cerebrospinal fluid leak; chordoma; craniopharyngioma; endonasal surgery; endoscopic surgery; lumbar drain; meningioma; meningitis; pituitary adenoma; pituitary surgery; skull base tumor.