Craniocervical tumors are tumors that can be found where the skull and neck meet, particularly the area of the foramen magnum (the opening at the base of the skull through which the spinal cord and the brainstem pass). Because of the complex nature of nerve fibers and blood vessels in the region and the flexibility of the cervical spine, craniocervical tissues are also especially vulnerable to a variety of compression and traction disorders.

Bone tumors located at the craniocervical junction (CCJ) are rare. Tumoral involvement of the neighboring structures (including bone, nerves and vertebral artery) and the dynamic aspects of the bone structures raise technical difficulties in the surgical approach. The surgical management includes tumoral resection and stabilization of the CCJ.

How is it diagnosed?

To learn more about possible craniocervical junction abnormalities, the doctor will ask about a patient’s medical history, perform a physical exam and ask about any symptoms. Symptoms include headaches, neck pain and signs of spinal cord compression, such as burning pain in the arms, buttocks or down the legs, cramping numbness in hands, difficulty with hand coordination, loss of sensation in the feet, and pain and stiffness in the neck, back or lower back. The doctor may order CT or MRI scans and/or X-rays to detect craniocervical junction abnormalities.

What are the treatment options?

Craniocervical junction abnormalities treatment will vary based on your condition. Treatment options include reduction and immobilization, surgical decompression and surgical fixation (stabilizing the spine using instruments such as plates and/or rods with screws). Neurosurgeons may also use the expanded endoscopic endonasal approach, which is a minimally invasive technique to reach the skull base area through the nose and nasal cavities.