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The complications associated with anterior skull base surgery were reviewed in 49 consecutive patients treated between November 1986 and August 1993. All procedures involved a combined otolaryngologic and neurosurgical approach, and the senior otolaryngologist was the same. Fifty-two procedures were completed; 37 for malignant disease and 15 for benign disease. Twenty-one of the 52 procedures had postoperative complications, a 40% complication rate. One postoperative death occurred from a myocardial infarction, for a 2% mortality rate. Infections complications were the most common, occurring in 19% of cases. The one case of meningitis responded to antibiotic therapy, without neurologic sequelae. Seven cerebrospinal fluid leaks occurred (13%); five resolved with conservative management, and two required reoperation. There was no significant difference between complication rates for patients with previous craniotomy, radiation therapy, or chemotherany compared with those with no prior therapy (p > .05). More complications occurred in patients with malignant disease than in those with benign disease (46% vs 27%), but this was not statistically significant (p > .05). Anterior and anterolateral skull base resection as part of a multidisciplinary approach to diseases of this region may provide improved palliation and may offer possible improved survival with acceptable surgical mortality. Although only 6% of patients were left with permanent neurologic sequelse in this series, the risks of serious complications are considerable.