The role of surgery in children with neurofibromatosis

Holly L. Neville, Kelly Seymour-Dempsey, John Slopis, Brijesh S. Gill, Bartlett D. Moore, Kevin P. Lally, Richard J. Andrassy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background/Purpose: Neurofibromatosis frequently is complicated by the development of symptomatic lesions such as optic gliomas and plexiform neurofibromas that require operative resection. Although characteristically benign, these neoplasms have often devastating functional and cosmetic effects and must be monitored for malignant transformation. The purpose of this study is to identify and describe the surgical considerations in the care of children with neurofibromatosis. Methods: The authors reviewed the charts of all children (<21) at our institution with neurofibromatosis who under went an operative procedure from 1979 to 1999. Patient demographics, symptomatic lesions, malignant transformation, form of surgical intervention, type of anesthesia, and outcome were collected. Results: A total of 249 patients with either neurofibromatosis 1 or 2 were identified. Of these, 50 (20%) underwent a total of 93 operations. The average age at operation was 9.4 years (1.2 to 21 years). There were 40 soft tissue procedures, 21 intracranial, and 32 miscellaneous. The soft tissue masses typically were treated with wide local excision, and in 8 of these procedures multiple resections were performed. Fourteen of the 50 patients had malignancies. Five of the tumors were soft tissue sarcomas, and 9 were intracranial malignancies. Three patients died, 2 from malignancy and 1 from acute, obstructive hydrocephalus after operation. There were 3 patients alive with malignancy and 8 others living with varying levels of disability. Conclusions: Neurofibromatosis in the pediatric patient frequently requires surgical intervention, often because of symptoms such as pain or cosmetic deformity, or for malignancy. Children should be watched carefully for signs of malignant transformation and undergo biopsy for neurofibromas that exhibit rapid growth. Management of sarcomas should be aggressive with consideration given to re-excision, placement of brachytherapy catheters, metastectomy, and limb salvage with adjuvant therapy when possible. Pre-operatively, children should receive clinical and radiographic (computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging) evaluation for hydrocephalus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-29
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Neuroma
  • Sarcoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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