Posterior fossa syndrome: Identifiable risk factors and irreversible complications

Deborah Doxey, Derek Bruce, Frederick Sklar, Dale Swift, Ken Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Cerebellar mutism was first described by Rekate et al. in 1985 as a transient condition which occurs after posterior fossa operations in children. Posterior fossa syndrome (PFS) and cerebellar mutism are often used interchangeably in the literature. In our experience, we found cerebellar mutism to be a reversible component of a persistent neurologic syndrome. The cause and identifiable risk factors have not been clearly elucidated in the literature. To further characterize PFS, we reviewed 253 children with posterior fossa tumors who underwent surgical resection. We documented 20 cases of PFS (8%), 12 males and 8 females. Age ranged from 1.5 to 13 years (mean = 6.5). Of the 20, 16 were medulloblastoma, 3 ependymoma and 1 astrocytoma. There was a 21% incidence (16/76) of PFS in medulloblastoma of the posterior fossa. The incidence for ependymoma was 13% (3/24) and 1% (1/102) for astrocytoma. All 20 cases (100%) had brainstem involvement by the tumor. The most frequent postoperative findings included mutism, ataxia, 6th and 7th nerve palsies and hemiparesis. Mutism had a latency range of 1-7 days (mean = 1.7) and a duration of 6-365 days (mean = 69.2, median = 35). Although mutism resolved in all cases, the remaining neurologic complications which characterized our findings of PFS were rarely reversible. We describe potential risk factors for developing PFS after surgery with hopes of making neurosurgeons more aware of potential problems following the removal of lesions in this area. Early recognition of PFS would further promote patient and family understanding and coping with this syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-136
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Neurosurgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1999


  • Mutism
  • Posterior fossa syndrome
  • Postoperative deficits
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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