Surgical treatment of clival chordomas: The transsphenoidal approach revisited

Giulio Maira, Roberto Pallini, Carmelo Anile, Eduardo Fernandez, Fabrizio Salvinelli, Luigi Maria La Rocca, Gian Franco Rossi

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This is a report of 12 cases of clival chordomas that were surgically treated at the Catholic University Medical School, Rome, Italy, over a 7- year period. The study emphasizes the role of transsphenoidal approach. The study group included seven men and five women whose ages ranged from 26 to 80 years (mean 49.8 years). Diplopia was the most common presenting symptom (eight cases). The tumor involved the upper and middle clivus in five cases, the middle clivus in five, and the lower clivus i two cases. One patient developed spinal metastasis. On histological examination, eight cases proved to be typical chordomas, three cases had a chondroid component, and one case of chordoma had atypical features. Immunohistological staining for vimentin and epithelial membrane antigen was positive in all cases. Follow-up periods ranged from 14 to 86 months (mean). The primary treatment consisted of surgery. Ten patients with chordomas of the upper and middle clivus underwent a total of 13 transsphenoidal procedures. Total tumor removal was achieved in seven cases, subtotal removal in two, and partial removal in one case. In the two cases of lower clival chordomas, total removal was accomplished in one and partial removal in the other. After total removal, no recurrence was noted at 14 to 86 months (mean 37.5 months). In the cases undergoing operation via a transsphenoidal approach, there was zero morbidity and one cerebrospinal fluid fistula that resolved without surgery. The tumor recurred in two patients after subtotal and partial removal, respectively. The authors opted to reoperate in cases of recurrence. Postoperative radiotherapy was administered in only two cases in which further surgery was not indicated because of medical reasons or because such a procedure was contrary to the patient's wishes. When mortality and morbidity rates of this group are compared to those of chordoma patients who were treated with extensive skull- base surgery, the results prompt a reappraisal of the transsphenoidal approach in the treatment of clival chordomas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)784-792
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1996


  • clival chordoma
  • transsphenoidal approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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