Surgical Treatment of Craniopharyngiomas in Adults: Comparison between Primary Surgery and Surgery for Recurrence

Curr Med Sci. 2022 Dec;42(6):1119-1130. doi: 10.1007/s11596-022-2679-0. Epub 2022 Dec 21.


Objective: Few studies have investigated the differences in outcomes between primary and repeat surgery for a craniopharyngioma in adults. As a result, a treatment concept for adult patients with a craniopharyngioma has not yet been established. The present study aimed to retrospectively analyze adult patients with craniopharyngioma to compare surgical outcomes between primary surgery and surgery for recurrence.

Methods: The demographic and clinical data of 68 adult patients with craniopharyngioma who had primary surgery (n=50) or surgery for recurrence (n=18) were retrospectively analyzed. In addition, the patients were followed up for an average of 38.6 months (range: 1-133 months).

Results: The cohorts of patients undergoing primary surgery or repeat surgery did not differ preoperatively in terms of demographic data, or radiological tumor features. However, patients with recurrent craniopharyngioma had significantly more pituitary hormone deficits and hypothalamo-pituitary disorders before surgery compared with patients with newly diagnosed craniopharyngioma. The success rate of complete resection in primary surgery was 53.2%. Even after repeat surgery, a satisfactory rate of complete resection of 35.7% was achieved. Operative morbidity was increased neither in patients with repeat surgery compared with those with primary surgery (postoperative bleeding P=0.560; meningitis P=1.000; CSF leak P=0.666; visual disturbance P=0.717) nor in patients with complete resection compared with those with partial resection. We found no difference in recurrence-free survival between initial surgery and repeat surgery (P=0.733). The recurrence rate was significantly lower after complete resection (6.9%) than after partial resection (47.8%; P<0.001).

Conclusion: Attempting complete resection is justified for not only those with newly diagnosed craniopharyngioma but also for those with recurrent craniopharyngioma. However, the surgeon must settle for less than total resection if postoperative morbidity is anticipated.

Keywords: adulthood; craniopharyngioma; primary surgery; recurrence; recurrence-free survival; transcranial; transsphenoidal.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Craniopharyngioma* / diagnosis
  • Craniopharyngioma* / pathology
  • Craniopharyngioma* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Neurosurgical Procedures
  • Pituitary Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome