BACKGROUND: The surgical management of petroclival meningiomas is, despite the invaluable technical achievements in the past decade, still burdened by a high operative morbidity. It seems doubtful whether radical surgical removal should always be the primary goal in those lesions as advocated until very recently. METHODS: A series was critically analysed and the literature discussed to elucidate criteria for a different attitude. Between 1990 and 1995 a total of 19 patients harbouring petroclival meningiomas were operated on. The following approaches were used: petrosal (n = 13), retrosigmoidal (n = 5), and subtemporal (n = 1). Thirteen lesions were removed completely and six incompletely as assessed by postoperative MRI. RESULTS: No recurrence or regrowth could be detected on MRI after a mean follow up of 18 months. Surgical mortality occurred in one patient (5%) and there was early postoperative dysfunction in 56%. At the time of follow up major permanent operative morbidity was present in two patients (11%). CONCLUSIONS: In accord with recent literature subtotal resection of petroclival meningiomas should be contemplated in a subset of patients (with invasion of brain stem or cavernous sinus) to reduce the incidence of disabling deficits. Surgery should not be delayed in younger patients because surgical morbidity relates positively with tumour size.
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