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JOURNAL ARTICLE

The utility of preoperative diffusion tensor imaging in the surgical management of brainstem cavernous malformations

Bruno C Flores, Anthony R Whittemore, Duke S Samson, Samuel L Barnett
Journal of Neurosurgery 2015, 122 (3): 653-62
25574568

OBJECT: Resection of brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs) may reduce the risk of stepwise neurological deterioration secondary to hemorrhage, but the morbidity of surgery remains high. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and diffusion tensor tractography (DTT) are neuroimaging techniques that may assist in the complex surgical planning necessary for these lesions. The authors evaluate the utility of preoperative DTI and DTT in the surgical management of BSCMs and their correlation with functional outcome.

METHODS: A retrospective review was conducted to identify patients who underwent resection of a BSCM between 2007 and 2012. All patients had preoperative DTI/DTT studies and a minimum of 6 months of clinical and radiographic follow-up. Five major fiber tracts were evaluated preoperatively using the DTI/DTT protocol: 1) corticospinal tract, 2) medial lemniscus and medial longitudinal fasciculus, 3) inferior cerebellar peduncle, 4) middle cerebellar peduncle, and 5) superior cerebellar peduncle. Scores were applied according to the degree of distortion seen, and the sum of scores was used for analysis. Functional outcomes were measured at hospital admission, discharge, and last clinic visit using modified Rankin Scale (mRS) scores.

RESULTS: Eleven patients who underwent resection of a BSCM and preoperative DTI were identified. The mean age at presentation was 49 years, with a male-to-female ratio of 1.75:1. Cranial nerve deficit was the most common presenting symptom (81.8%), followed by cerebellar signs or gait/balance difficulties (54.5%) and hemibody anesthesia (27.2%). The majority of the lesions were located within the pons (54.5%). The mean diameter and estimated volume of lesions were 1.21 cm and 1.93 cm(3), respectively. Using DTI and DTT, 9 patients (82%) were found to have involvement of 2 or more major fiber tracts; the corticospinal tract and medial lemniscus/medial longitudinal fasciculus were the most commonly affected. In 2 patients with BSCMs without pial presentation, DTI/DTT findings were important in the selection of the surgical approach. In 2 other patients, the results from preoperative DTI/DTT were important for selection of brainstem entry zones. All 11 patients underwent gross-total resection of their BSCMs. After a mean postoperative follow-up duration of 32.04 months, all 11 patients had excellent or good outcome (mRS Score 0-3) at the time of last outpatient clinic evaluation. DTI score did not correlate with long-term outcome.

CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative DTI and DTT should be considered in the resection of symptomatic BSCMs. These imaging studies may influence the selection of surgical approach or brainstem entry zones, especially in deep-seated lesions without pial or ependymal presentation. DTI/DTT findings may allow for more aggressive management of lesions previously considered surgically inaccessible. Preoperative DTI/DTT changes do not appear to correlate with functional postoperative outcome in long-term follow-up.

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