Craniopharyngiomas (CPs) have had a prominent place in neurosurgery due to both the technical difficulty and controversy regarding the optimal treatment of these benign tumors. Harvey Cushing famously described craniopharyngiomas in 1936 as “the most forbidding of the intracranial tumors.” Seventy years later, Rutka still wrote: “There is no other primary brain tumor that evokes more passion, emotion, and as a result, controversy than does the CP.” Craniopharyngiomas comprise 1–2% of all brain tumors and occur in a bimodal distribution, with 40% of cases occurring between age 5–15 years and 60% occurring at ages >55 years. The differential diagnosis for craniopharyngioma can include a variety of entities, including pituitary macroadenoma, metastasis, Rathke’s cleft cyst, colloid cyst, glioma, meningioma, germinoma, abscess, sarcoid, or aneurysm. Imaging characteristics usually include a solid cystic lesion, speckled with calcifications in 50–80% of craniopharyngiomas (especially pediatric patients), as well a presentation with hypopituitarism and diabetes insipidus, which influence clinical thinking toward establishing this diagnosis.
Part of the book: Brain Tumors