Chordomas and chondrosarcomas of the cranial base: results and follow-up of 60 patients

Neurosurgery. 1995 May;36(5):887-96; discussion 896-7. doi: 10.1227/00006123-199505000-00001.


The management of chordomas and chondrosarcomas involving the cranial base remains controversial. The options for therapy include biopsy, partial resection, radical resection, and various forms of radiotherapy. In this article, we analyze the outcome of 60 patients with cranial base chordoma or chondrosarcoma treated with extensive surgical resection between 1984 and 1993. Forty-six patients had chordomas, and 14 had low-grade chondrosarcomas; 50% of these patients had been treated previously. Preoperative studies included computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, cerebral angiography, and balloon occlusion test of the internal carotid artery, as indicated. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed on all patients during follow-up. The surgical approaches used for tumor resection were predominantly the following: subtemporal, transzygomatic, transcavernous, and transpetrous apex; subtemporal and infratemporal; extended frontal; and extreme lateral transcondylar. Staged operations with a combination of approaches were used when necessary (52% of cases) to remove a tumor more completely. Statistical analysis was done by the chi 2 test and correlation matrix. Sixty-seven percent of the patients had total or near-total resection. Twenty percent of the patients received postoperative radiotherapy. Eleven patients died during the postoperative follow-up period, nine with chordomas and two with chondrosarcomas. Three patients died because of systemic complications within 3 months after surgery, five died because of tumor recurrence, one died from unrelated causes, and two died from late complications of radiotherapy. The recurrence-free survival rate for all tumors was 80% at 3 years and 76% at 5 years. Chondrosarcomas had a better prognosis than chordomas (recurrence-free survival rates, 90% at 5 years and 65% at 5 years, respectively; P = 0.09). Patients who had undergone previous surgery had a greater risk of recurrence (5-year recurrence-free survival rate, 64%) than did patients who had not undergone previous surgery (5-year recurrence-free survival rate, 93%; P < 0.05). Patients with total or near-total resection had a better 5-year recurrence-free survival rate (84%) than did patients with partial or subtotal resection (64%) (P < 0.05). Postoperative leakage of cerebrospinal fluid was the most frequent complication (30% of patients) and was found to increase the risk of permanent disability. Patients who had undergone previous radiotherapy had a greater risk of death in the postoperative period (within 3 months of their operations) and during follow-up. However, total or near-total resection did not increase the rate of postoperative disability.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chondrosarcoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Chondrosarcoma / mortality
  • Chondrosarcoma / surgery*
  • Chordoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Chordoma / mortality
  • Chordoma / surgery*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Postoperative Period
  • Radiography
  • Skull Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Skull Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skull Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome