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Volume 21, Number 4, 2016

Tumour seeding in the surgical pathway after resection of skull base chordoma

Marco Krengli, Arturo Poletti, Eleonora Ferrara, Piero Fossati



The aim of this study is to review the clinical series in which tumour seeding was reported after skull base surgery for chordomas.


The occurrence of implantation of cancer cells during surgical procedures for the removal of chordoma is a rare event described by a number of authors in a few patient series and case reports.

Materials and methods

Literature search was performed by PubMed and Scopus by using the words “surgical tumour seeding, tumour implantation, surgical pathway recurrence, skull base chordoma, and clivus chordoma”.


Six retrospective series and 7 case reports were included in the analysis. In total, 34 patients are described with pathway recurrence, 30 at a single site and 4 at multiple sites.

In the 5 largest chordoma series, the rate of occurrence of surgical seeding ranged from 1.3% to 7.3% (3.9%). In the 34 patients diagnosed with tumour seeding, the most frequent surgical approach was trans-nasal/trans-sphenoidal, that was used in 12 cases. The median time from primary treatment to surgical pathway tumour seeding ranged from 7 to 78 months. Data of the treatment of seeding are available in 26/34 patients. All of them underwent a new surgery, 6 received additional external beam radiotherapy, and 2 intraoperative radiotherapy.


The risk of surgical seeding should be taken into consideration when deciding on the surgical approach and the planning treatment volume for postoperative radiation therapy. The surgical pathway should be included in follow-up studies to diagnose this peculiar type of treatment failure possibly at an early phase.

Signature: Rep Pract Oncol Radiother, 2016; 21(4) : 407-411

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