Surgical management of brainstem cavernomas: selection of approaches and microsurgical techniques

Shiro Ohue, Takanori Fukushima, Yoshiaki Kumon, Takanori Ohnishi, Allan H Friedman
Neurosurgical Review 2010, 33 (3): 315-22; discussion 323-4
This study reviewed surgical experience with brainstem cavernomas in an attempt to define optimal surgical approaches and risks associated with surgical management. Clinical courses were retrospectively reviewed for 36 consecutive patients (12 men, 24 women; mean age, 42 years) who underwent microsurgical resection of brainstem cavernomas between 1996 and 2006. Medical records, surgical records, and neuroimaging examinations were evaluated. All 36 patients presented with > or =1 hemorrhage from the cavernomas and preoperatively displayed some neurological symptoms. Surgical approach was midline suboccipital for 16 pontine and/or medullary cavernomas under the floor of the fourth ventricle, retrosigmoid for 10 lateral mesencephalic, pontine, and/or medullary cavernomas, occipital transtentorial for 2 thalamomesencephalic and 3 mesencephalic cavernomas, combined petrosal for 2 pontine cavernomas, and other for 3 cavernomas. Complete resection according to postoperative magnetic resonance imaging was achieved in 33 of 36 patients. No mortality was encountered in this study. New neurological deficit occurred in the early postoperative period for 18 patients, but was transient in 15 of these. Neurological state as of final follow-up was improved in 16 patients (44%), unchanged in 17 (47%), and worsened in 3 (8%) compared with preoperatively. In conclusion, symptomatic brainstem cavernomas should be considered for surgical treatment. Careful selection of the optimal operative approach and a meticulous microsurgical technique are mandatory.

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