Adult craniopharyngioma: The role of extent of resection in tumor recurrence and long-term functional outcome

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2020 May:192:105711. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2020.105711. Epub 2020 Feb 3.


Objective: The optimal therapeutic approach to craniopharyngioma has not been established conclusively. The surgical outcome following radical excision and conservative resection with adjuvant radiotherapy are comparable or even better with the later in pediatric or mixed populations. This study is aimed at reviewing the role of extent of resection in local tumor control and long-term outcome in adults with craniopharyngioma.

Patients and methods: Ninety-five adults operated between 2001 and 2013 were included. Progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) were calculated. Predictors of various outcome parameters were analyzed.

Results: The predominant presenting symptom was visual impairment (78 %) followed by symptoms of hypothalamic involvement (29 %). Total and subtotal excisions (TE, STE) were achieved in 63 %, and 47 % of patients, respectively. Vision improved in 62 % of patients in the early postoperative period. Thirteen patients (14 %) experienced vision deterioration postoperatively. On multivariate analysis, tumor >3 cm and optic atrophy predicted poor visual outcome. Hormonal replacement for hypopituitarism was required in 83 % during follow-up. Diabetes insipidus was seen in 73 %. Imaging evidence of 3rd ventricular floor destruction by tumor emerged as an independent predictor of postoperative hypothalamic morbidities. The recurrence rate following TE and STE was 11.6 % and 72 %, respectively. Unlike radical excision, PFS following STE was significantly shorter (p- 0.02). TE was not associated with increased visual impairment or hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction postoperatively as compared to STE. Most of the patients (85 %) were independent and able to return to the premorbid occupation.

Conclusion: Subtotal resection provides equally good long-term visual, endocrinological, and hypothalamic outcomes as radical surgery. When used with adjuvant radiotherapy, it also gives a better local control of the tumor. Hence, subtotal resection with adjuvant radiotherapy should be considered as an effective alternative strategy to radical excision.

Keywords: Adjuvant radiotherapy; Craniopharyngioma; Hypopituitarism; Hypothalamic morbidities; Radical resection; Subtotal excision.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Insufficiency / metabolism
  • Adrenal Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Adult
  • Craniopharyngioma / metabolism
  • Craniopharyngioma / physiopathology
  • Craniopharyngioma / surgery*
  • Female
  • Functional Status
  • Growth Hormone / deficiency
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism / metabolism
  • Hypogonadism / physiopathology
  • Hypopituitarism / metabolism
  • Hypopituitarism / physiopathology
  • Hypothyroidism / metabolism
  • Hypothyroidism / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasm, Residual
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology
  • Young Adult


  • Growth Hormone