JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Neurosurgical treatment of von Hippel-Lindau-associated hemangioblastomas: benefits, risks and outcome.

AIM: Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease is a genetic syndrome predisposing to central nervous system (CNS) hemangioblastomas and several lesions in many organs. The cases of all VHL individuals operated on in the Neurosurgical Unit of Padua Hospital since year 2000 were reviewed in order to define which features lead to surgical treatment and to examine surgical outcome during postoperative follow-up.

METHODS: The authors evaluated 20 VHL subjects (7 males and 13 females, age at surgery 32+/-10 years) who underwent 28 operations in order to remove 48 CNS hemangioblastomas and 1 endolymphatic sac tumor. Among the 49 resected lesions, 21 (42%) were cerebellar, 9 (18%) at brainstem, 19 (38%) spinal (7 cervical, 6 dorsal, 6 at cone-cauda level), and 1 (2%) endolymphatic sac tumor in the petrous bone. Patients were graduated according to Karnofsky Performance Status (KPS) at admission, at discharge and during the last follow up visit. Genetic testing revealing the presence of a VHL disease-causing mutation was a prerequisite for inclusion in the study.

RESULTS: Nineteen individuals (95%) were symptomatic. Symptomatic hemangioblastomas were associated with a cyst or a syrinx in 22/27 circumstances (81%). Total removal, as confirmed by postoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), was achieved in all but one lesion. Following surgery, at follow-up (38+/-20 months), patients improved their neurological status in 75% of cases, 20% remained stable and 5% worsened; 16 patients (80%) are able to carry on normal activity with or without minor symptoms, 3 patients require some grade of assistance, 1 patient died because of bronchopneumonia.

CONCLUSION: VHL-associated hemangioblastomas generally affect a young adult population and can be successfully removed, either when symptomatic, or when they reach a critical volume. Microsurgery of hemangioblastomas has a favourable impact on survival and quality of life of VHL patients, although it is strongly influenced by preoperative conditions. Transient surgical complications are possible, particularly with brainstem and spinal cord hemangioblastomas.

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