Surveillance neuroimaging of intracranial medulloblastoma in children: how effective, how often, and for how long?

Dawn E. Saunders Department of Neuroradiology and Neurosurgery, Great Ormond Street Hospital; and Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom

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Richard D. Hayward Department of Neuroradiology and Neurosurgery, Great Ormond Street Hospital; and Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom

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Kim P. Phipps Department of Neuroradiology and Neurosurgery, Great Ormond Street Hospital; and Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom

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Wui Khean Chong Department of Neuroradiology and Neurosurgery, Great Ormond Street Hospital; and Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom

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Angela M. Wade Department of Neuroradiology and Neurosurgery, Great Ormond Street Hospital; and Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom

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Object. The goal of this paper was to review brain and spine images obtained in children with medulloblastomas to determine the risk factors for tumor recurrence and to assess the impact of surveillance imaging on patient outcomes among patients who remain alive 1 month postsurgery.

Methods. Imaging studies and clinical data obtained in children with medulloblastomas, who presented between January 1987 and August 1998, were retrospectively reviewed. Images were termed surveillance if they were follow-up studies and symptom prompted if they were obtained to investigate new symptoms.

One hundred seven patients (mean age 6 years and 3 months, range 2 months–15 years and 6 months) were entered into the study. Fifty-three children experienced tumor recurrence; 41 had one recurrence, nine had two, and three had three recurrences. Surveillance imaging revealed 10 of the first 53 recurrences and 15 of all 68 recurrences. When the first recurrence was identified by the emergence of symptoms (42 patients), the children tended to survive for a shorter time (hazard ratio 3.72, 95% confidence interval 1.42–9.76, p = 0.008) than children in whom the first recurrence was detected before symptoms occurred (10 patients). The median survival time following symptomatic tumor recurrence was 4 months and that after surveillance-detected tumor recurrence was 17 months. The median increased survival time among patients whose recurrence was asymptomatic and identified by imaging studies was 13 months, more than half the mean time between surveillance imaging sessions. Incomplete tumor resection was associated with a significantly reduced time to recurrence (p = 0.048) and to death (p = 0.002). The number of recurrences that were experienced was associated with a reduced time to death (p < 0.001).

Conclusions. Surveillance imaging is associated with an increase in survival in children with medulloblastomas. More frequent surveillance imaging in children with incomplete tumor excision and recurrent disease may further improve the length of survival.

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