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Improvement of diffusion tensor imaging-based tractography by free-water correction in nonedematous gliomas: assessment with brain mapping.

OBJECTIVE: The free-water correction algorithm (Freewater Estimator Using Interpolated Initialization [FERNET]) can be applied to standard diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography to improve visualization of subcortical bundles in the peritumoral area of highly edematous brain tumors. Interest in its use for presurgical planning in purely infiltrative gliomas without peritumoral edema has never been evaluated. Using subcortical maps obtained with direct electrostimulation (DES) in awake surgery as a reference standard, the authors sought to 1) assess the accuracy of preoperative DTI-based tractography with FERNET in a series of nonedematous glioma patients, and 2) determine its potential usefulness in presurgical planning.

METHODS: Based on DES-induced functional disturbances and tumor topography, the authors retrospectively reconstructed the putatively stimulated bundles and the peritumoral tracts of interest (various associative and projection pathways) of 12 patients. The tractography data obtained with and without FERNET were compared.

RESULTS: The authors identified 21 putative tracts from 24 stimulation sites and reconstituted 49 tracts of interest. The number of streamlines of the putative tracts crossing the DES area was 26.8% higher (96.04 vs 75.75, p = 0.016) and their volume 20.4% higher (13.99 cm3 vs 11.62 cm3, p < 0.0001) with FERNET than with standard DTI. Additionally, the volume of the tracts of interest was 22.1% higher (9.69 cm3 vs 7.93 cm3, p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: Free-water correction significantly increased the anatomical plausibility of the stimulated fascicles and the volume of tracts of interest in the peritumoral area of purely infiltrative nonedematous gliomas. Because of the functional importance of the peritumoral zone, applying FERNET to DTI could have potential implications on surgical planning and the safety of glioma resection.

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