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Detection of brain micrometastases by high-resolution stereotactic magnetic resonance imaging and its impact on the timing of and risk for distant recurrences.

OBJECT: The aim of this study was to assess the order of micrometastases that can be detected with high-resolution MR imaging at the time of Gamma Knife surgery (GKS), and to estimate the impact this has on the time until and incidence of distant recurrences.

METHODS: A consecutive series of 835 patients with brain metastases treated with GKS in a 7-year period, excluding patients in whom earlier brain metastases were treated with other modalities, were retrospectively analyzed. In all patients GKS was based on high Gd-dose (0.3 mmol/kg), high-resolution stereotactic MR imaging. These images were compared with the standard pretreatment MR images, and the difference in number of metastases found was analyzed. The distant recurrence rate following GKS was compared with that found in a prospective randomized study (Aoyama et al.) comparing radiosurgery to radiosurgery plus prophylactic whole-brain radiation therapy.

RESULTS: New tumors were diagnosed in 40% (95% CI 36%-43%) of all patients as well as in the majority of patients with multiple lesions found on the diagnostic scan. The more tumors there were on the diagnostic scan, the higher the likelihood of detecting additional lesions with high-resolution imaging. It was calculated that approximately 50% of the micrometastases present at the time of GKS could be diagnosed with high-resolution imaging, which decreased the incidence of and delayed the time for the development of distant recurrences.

CONCLUSIONS: Additional brain metastases can be diagnosed in 40% of patients by using high-resolution imaging. Thus, radiosurgical treatments based on high-resolution stereotactic MR imaging decrease the incidence of and lengthen the time to distant recurrences.

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