The Simpson grade: abandon the scale but preserve the message

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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Otolaryngology and Neuroscience, Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, New York; and
  • 2 Division of Neuroscience, Translational Medicine, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Florida International University, Miami, Florida
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The Simpson grading scale, developed in 1957 by Donald Simpson, has been considered the gold standard for defining the surgical extent of resection for WHO grade I meningiomas. Since its introduction, the scale and its modifications have generated enormous controversy. The Simpson grade is based on an intraoperative visual assessment of resection, which is subjective and notoriously inaccurate. The majority of studies in which the grading system was used were performed before routine postoperative MRI surveillance was employed, rendering assessments of extent of resection and the definition of recurrence inconsistent. The infiltration and proliferation potential of tumor components such as hyperostotic bone and dural tail vary widely based on tumor location, as does the molecular biology of the tumor, rendering a universal scale for all meningiomas unfeasible. While extent of resection is clearly important at reducing recurrence rates, achieving the highest Simpson grade resection should not always be the goal of surgery.

Donald Simpson’s name and his scale deserve to be recognized and preserved in the historical pantheon of pioneering and transformative neurosurgical concepts. Nevertheless, his eponymous scale is no longer relevant in modern meningioma surgery. While his message of maximizing extent of resection and minimizing morbidity is still germane, a single measure using subjective criteria cannot be applied universally to all meningiomas, regardless of location. Meningioma surgery should be performed with the goal of achieving maximal safe resection, ideally guided by molecularly tagged fluorescent labeling and assessed using objective criteria, including postoperative MRI as well as molecularly tagged scans such as [68Ga]-DOTATATE-PET.

ABBREVIATIONS GTR = gross-total resection; STR = subtotal resection.

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Theodore H. Schwartz: Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. schwarh@med.cornell.edu.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online October 9, 2020; DOI: 10.3171/2020.6.JNS201904.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

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