Gamma Knife surgery for focal brainstem gliomas

Chun Po Yen Lars Leksell Center for Gamma Surgery, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia

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Jason Sheehan Lars Leksell Center for Gamma Surgery, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia

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Melita Steiner Lars Leksell Center for Gamma Surgery, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia

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Greg Patterson Lars Leksell Center for Gamma Surgery, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia

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Ladislau Steiner Lars Leksell Center for Gamma Surgery, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia

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Object

Focal tumors, a distinct subgroup of which is composed of brainstem gliomas, may have an indolent clinical course. In the past, their management involved monitoring of open-ended imaging studies and shunt placement if cerebrospinal fluid diversion was required. Nonetheless, their treatment remains a significant challenge for neurosurgeons. Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) has recently been tried as an alternative to surgical extirpation. In the present study the authors assess clinical and imaging results in 20 patients who harbored focal brainstem gliomas treated with GKS between 1990 and 2001.

Methods

There were 10 male and 10 female patients with a mean age of 19.1 years. Sixteen tumors were located in the midbrain, three in the pons, and one in the medulla oblongata. The mean tumor volume at the time of GKS was 2.5 cm3. In 10 cases a tumor specimen was obtained either by open surgery or stereotactic biopsy, securing the diagnosis of pilocytic astrocytoma in five patients and nonpilocytic astrocytoma in five others. In the remaining 10 cases, the diagnosis was based on clinical and neuroimaging findings. The prescription Gamma Knife dose varied between 10 and 18 Gy, except in three patients who were receiving a boost to a site in which external-beam radiation was previously delivered. An average of four isocenters were utilized per GKS.

Patients were followed up for a mean of 78.0 months. The tumors disappeared in four patients and shrank in 12 patients. Of these patients, one experienced transitory extrapyramidal symptoms and fluctuating impairment of consciousness (from somnolence to coma) for 6 months. Another patient whose tumor disappeared 3 years following GKS died of stroke 8 years postoperatively. The rest of the patients either remained stable or improved clinically. Tumor progression occurred in four patients; of these four, one patient developed hydrocephalus requiring a ventriculoperitoneal shunt, two showed neurological deterioration, and one 4-year-old boy died of tumor progression.

Conclusions

Gamma Knife surgery may be an effective primary treatment or adjunct to open surgery for focal brainstem gliomas.

Abbreviations used in this paper:

CT = computed tomography; FLAIR = fluid-attenuated inversion-recovery; GKS = Gamma Knife surgery; KPS = Karnofsky performance scale; MR = magnetic resonance; VP = ventriculoperitoneal.
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