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Matthew J. McGirt, Alan T. Villavicencio, Ketan R. Bulsara, Henry S. Friedman and Allan H. Friedman

✓ Adjuvant use of 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea (BCNU) wafers with surgical resection is becoming common for the treatment of malignant gliomas. Cyst formation in the tumor resection cavity is a recently described complication associated with the use of BCNU wafers. There is currently no report in which successful management of this complication without additional surgical intervention is described.

The authors describe four patients in whom postoperative cysts developed in the tumor resection cavity after placement of BCNU wafers. These include a 38-year-old man with a left frontoparietal tumor, a 48-year-old man with a right frontal lobe tumor, a 78-year-old man with a left parietooccipital tumor, and a 61-year-old woman with a left frontotemporal tumor. Histopathological studies of biopsy samples revealed malignant glioma in each patient. All four patients had unremarkable perioperative courses, were discharged within 3 to 8 days of surgery, and subsequently returned with acute neurological deterioration. Follow-up magnetic resonance (MR) imaging demonstrated cyst formation with significant mass effect at the previous resection site. Three patients were treated with high-dose dexamethasone and returned to their neurological baseline over an 8-day period. The fourth patient improved after surgical drainage and biopsy sampling of the cyst, which revealed no evidence of infection or recurrent tumor, but again sought medical care 2 weeks later with cyst recurrence necessitating high-dose steroid therapy. On MR images at least a 30% reduction in cyst size was demonstrated in all four patients, each of whom remained clinically stable at 2, 6, 6, and 4 months of follow-up review.

Neurosurgeons should be aware of the potential for postoperative cyst formation accompanied by clinically significant mass effect after BCNU wafer implantation, as well as the potential for successful nonsurgical management leading to clinical and radiological improvement.

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Matthew J. McGirt, Ketan R. Bulsara, Thomas J. Cummings, Kent C. New, Kenneth M. Little, Henry S. Friedman and Allan H. Friedman

Object. The prognostic value of differentiating between recurrent malignant glioma and a lesion due to radiation effect by performing stereotactic biopsy has not been assessed. Thus, this study was undertaken to determine such value.

Methods. Between 1995 and 2001, 114 patients underwent magnetic resonance (MR) imaging—guided stereotactic biopsy to differentiate lesions caused by a recurrence of malignant astrocytoma and by radiation effect. All patients had previously undergone tumor resection (World Health Organization Grade III or IV) followed by radiotherapy. Disease diagnosis based on biopsy and patient characteristics were assessed as predictors of survival according to results of a multivariate Cox regression analysis. The diagnosis determined with the aid of biopsy was compared with that established during a subsequent resection in 26 patients.

Survival following stereotactic biopsy was markedly increased in patients suffering from radiation effect compared with those harboring recurrent malignant glioma (p < 0.0001). In patients with radiation effect on biopsy, an increasing patient age (p < 0.05), having had two compared with one prior resection (p < 0.05), and a decreasing time from radiotherapy to biopsy (p < 0.001) were factors associated with decreased survival. Nevertheless, in patients with biopsy-defined radiation effect at second progression or with an age younger than 50 years the survival rate remained higher than that in patients with recurrent tumor on biopsy (p < 0.01). A biopsy-based diagnosis of radiation effect obtained less than 5 months after radiotherapy was not associated with an increased rate of patient survival compared with a diagnosis of recurrent malignant glioma on biopsy (p = 0.286). Eighty-six percent of lesions initially determined to be due to radiation effect on biopsy fewer than 5 months after radiotherapy were characterized as recurrent glioma by a mean of 11 months later. In contrast, only 25% of lesions initially diagnosed as attributable to radiation effect on biopsy more than 5 months after radiotherapy were classified as recurrent glioma a mean of 12 months later (p < 0.05).

Conclusions. With the aid of stereotactic biopsy the authors demonstrated prognostic significance in differentiating recurrent malignant astrocytoma from a lesion due to radiation effect in patients presenting more than 5 months after having undergone radiotherapy. In patients who presented earlier than 5 months after radiotherapy, radiation effect on biopsy was not associated with an improved rate of survival compared with that in patients harboring recurrent malignant astrocytoma.

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Ketan R. Bulsara, Matthew J. McGirt, Lawrence Liao, Alan T. Villavicencio, Cecil Borel, Michael J. Alexander and Allan H. Friedman

Object. Differentiating myocardial infarction (MI) from reversible neurogenic left ventricular dysfunction (stunned myocardium [SM]) associated with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is critical for early surgical intervention. The authors hypothesized that the cardiac troponin (cTn) trend and/or echocardiogram could be used to differentiate between the two entities.

Methods. A retrospective study was conducted for the period between 1995 and 2000. All patients included in the study met the following criteria: 1) no history of cardiac problems; 2) new onset of abnormal cardiac function (ejection fraction [EF] < 40% on echocardiograms); 3) serial cardiac markers (cTn and creatine kinase MB isoform [CK-MB]); 4) surgical intervention for their aneurysm; and 5) cardiac output monitoring either by repeated echocardiograms or invasive hemodynamic monitoring during the first 4 days post-SAH when the patients were euvolemic.

Of the 350 patients with SAH, 10 (2.9%) had severe cardiac dysfunction. Of those 10, six were women and four were men. The patients' mean age was 53.5 years (range 29–75 years) and their SAH was classified as Hunt and Hess Grade III or IV. Aneurysm distribution was as follows: basilar artery tip (four); anterior communicating artery (two); middle cerebral artery (one); posterior communicating artery (two); and posterior inferior cerebellar artery (one). The mean EF at onset was 33%. The changes on echocardiograms in these patients did not match the findings on electrocardiograms (EKGs). Within 4.5 days, dramatic improvement was seen in cardiac output (from 4.93 ± 1.16 L/minute to 7.74 ± 0.88 L/minute). Compared with historical controls in whom there were similar levels of left ventricular dysfunction after MI, there was no difference in peak CK-MB. A 10-fold difference, however, was noted in cTn values (0.22 ± 0.25 ng/ml; control 2.8 ng/ml; p < 0.001).

Conclusions. The authors determined the following: 1) that the CK-MB trend does not allow differentiation between SM and MI; 2) that echocardiograms revealing significant inconsistencies with EKGs are indicative of SM; and 3) that cTn values less than 2.8 ng/ml in patients with EFs less than 40% are consistent with SM.

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Matthew J. McGirt, John C. Mavropoulos, Laura Y. McGirt, Michael J. Alexander, Allan H. Friedman, Daniel T. Laskowitz and John R. Lynch

Object. The identification of patients at an increased risk for cerebral vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) may allow for more aggressive treatment and improved patient outcomes. Note, however, that blood clot size on admission remains the only factor consistently demonstrated to increase the risk of cerebral vasospasm after SAH. The goal of this study was to assess whether clinical, radiographic, or serological variables could be used to identify patients at an increased risk for cerebral vasospasm.

Methods. A retrospective review was conducted in all patients with aneurysmal or spontaneous nonaneurysmal SAH who were admitted to the authors' institution between 1995 and 2001. Underlying vascular diseases (hypertension or chronic diabetes mellitus), Hunt and Hess and Fisher grades, patient age, aneurysm location, craniotomy compared with endovascular aneurysm stabilization, medications on admission, postoperative steroid agent use, and the occurrence of fever, hydrocephalus, or leukocytosis were assessed as predictors of vasospasm.

Two hundred twenty-four patients were treated for SAH during the review period. One hundred one patients (45%) developed symptomatic vasospasm. Peak vasospasm occurred 5.8 ± 3 days after SAH. There were four independent predictors of vasospasm: Fisher Grade 3 SAH (odds ratio [OR] 7.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.5–15.8), peak serum leukocyte count (OR 1.09, 95% CI 1.02–1.16), rupture of a posterior cerebral artery (PCA) aneurysm (OR 0.05, 95% CI 0.01–0.41), and spontaneous nonaneurysmal SAH (OR 0.14, 95% CI 0.04–0.45). A serum leukocyte count greater than 15 × 109/L was independently associated with a 3.3-fold increase in the likelihood of developing vasospasm (OR 3.33, 95% CI 1.74–6.38).

Conclusions. During this 7-year period, spontaneous nonaneurysmal SAH and ruptured PCA aneurysms decreased the odds of developing vasospasm sevenfold and 20-fold, respectively. The presence of Fisher Grade 3 SAH on admission or a peak leukocyte count greater than 15 × 109/L increased the odds of vasospasm sevenfold and threefold, respectively. Monitoring of the serum leukocyte count may allow for early diagnosis and treatment of vasospasm.

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R. Shane Tubbs, Matthew J. McGirt and W. Jerry Oakes

Object. The aim of this study was to present the long-term findings of a surgical series of pediatric patients with Chiari I malformations.

Methods. One hundred thirty symptomatic pediatric patients with Chiari I malformations underwent posterior fossa decompression. The age in this group of patients ranged from 2 months to 20 years (mean 11 years). The length of the hospital stay extended from 2 to 7 days (mean 2.7 days), and follow up was from 3 months to 15 years (mean 4.2 years). Patients most often presented with headache/neck pain (38%) and scoliosis (18%). Examples of associated diagnoses included neurofibromatosis Type 1 (5.5%), hydrocephalus (11%), idiopathic growth hormone deficiency (5.5%), and Klippel—Feil anomaly (5%). Syringes were present in 58% of patients. Seventeen percent of patients had caudal displacement of the brainstem and fourth ventricle. Postoperative relief of preoperative pathologies was experienced in 83% of patients. Of the most common presenting symptoms—headache/neck pain and scoliosis—12 and 17%, respectively, were not alleviated postoperatively. Complications occurred in 2.3% of this group and included the development of acute hydrocephalus postoperatively and severe life-threatening signs of brainstem compression that necessitated a transoral odontoidectomy. Nine patients have had to undergo repeated operations for continued symptoms or persistent large syringes. During surgery 10 patients (7.7%) were found to have arachnoid veils occluding the fourth ventricular outlet, and nine of these had syringomyelia. In our experience almost all syringes will stabilize or improve with posterior fossa decompression and duraplasty.

Conclusions. The authors believe this to be the largest reported series of pediatric patients who have undergone posterior fossa decompression for Chiari I malformations.

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Eric W. Amundson, Matthew J. McGirt and Alessandro Olivi

✓ The authors report on the technique and results of stereotactic biopsy for intrinsic lateral pontine and medial cerebellar lesions via a contralateral, transfrontal, extraventricular approach. Multiplanar stereotactic magnetic resonance imaging was used to plan an intraparenchymal approach, thus limiting the number of crossed pial surfaces to one and eliminating the need to cross ependymal surfaces. After the administration of a local anesthetic agent with light intravenous sedation, six patients harboring intrinsic lateral pontine lesions underwent biopsies via this intraparenchymal approach with 100% diagnostic yield and no operative morbidity. In comparison to the ipsilateral transfrontal approach, the contralateral approach laterally expands the infratentorial area accessible during biopsy to include the lateral pons and middle cerebellar peduncle. The contralateral, transfrontal, extraventricular approach is a useful, straight-forward and safe alternative to the suboccipital transcerebellar and ipsilateral, transfrontal, transtentorial routes for reaching lesions of the lateral pons and middle cerebellar peduncle.

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Matthew J. McGirt, Graeme F. Woodworth, Alex L. Coon, James M. Frazier, Eric Amundson, Ira Garonzik, Alessandro Olivi and Jon D. Weingart

Object. Image-guided stereotactic brain biopsy is associated with transient and permanent incidences of morbidity in 9 and 4.5% of patients, respectively. The goal of this study was to perform a critical analysis of risk factors predictive of an enhanced operative risk in frame-based and frameless stereotactic brain biopsy.

Methods. The authors reviewed the clinical and neuroimaging records of 270 patients who underwent consecutive frame-based and frameless image-guided stereotactic brain biopsies. The association between preoperative variables and biopsy-related morbidity was assessed by performing a multivariate logistic regression analysis.

Transient and permanent stereotactic biopsy-related morbidity was observed in 23 (9%) and 13 (5%) patients, respectively. A hematoma occurred at the biopsy site in 25 patients (9%); 10 patients (4%) were symptomatic. Diabetes mellitus (odds ratio [OR] 3.73, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.37–10.17, p = 0.01), thalamic lesions (OR 4.06, 95% CI 1.63–10.11, p = 0.002), and basal ganglia lesions (OR 3.29, 95% CI 1.05–10.25, p = 0.04) were independent risk factors for morbidity. In diabetic patients, a serum level of glucose that was greater than 200 mg/dl on the day of biopsy had a 100% positive predictive value and a glucose level lower than 200 mg/dl on the same day had a 95% negative predictive value for biopsy-related morbidity. Pontine biopsy was not a risk factor for morbidity. Only two (4%) of 45 patients who had epilepsy before the biopsy experienced seizures postoperatively. The creation of more than one needle trajectory increased the incidence of neurological deficits from 17 to 44% when associated with the treatment of deep lesions (those in the basal ganglia or thalamus; p = 0.05), but was not associated with morbidity when associated with the treatment of cortex lesions.

Conclusions. Basal ganglia lesions, thalamic lesions, and patients with diabetes were independent risk factors for biopsy-associated morbidity. Hyperglycemia on the day of biopsy predicted morbidity in the diabetic population. Epilepsy did not predispose to biopsy-associated seizure. For deep-seated lesions, increasing the number of biopsy samples along an established track rather than performing a second trajectory may minimize the incidence of morbidity. Close perioperative observation of glucose levels may be warranted.

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Daniel M. Sciubba, R. Morgan Stuart, Matthew J. McGirt, Graeme F. Woodworth, Amer Samdani, Benjamin Carson and George I. Jallo


The majority of shunt infections occur within 6 months of shunt placement and chiefly result from perioperative colonization of shunt components by skin flora. Antibiotic-impregnated shunt (AIS) systems have been designed to prevent such colonization. In this study, the authors evaluate the incidence of shunt infection after introduction of an AIS system in a population of children with hydrocephalus.


The authors retrospectively reviewed all pediatric patients who had undergone cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt insertion at their institution over a 3-year period between April 2001 and March 2004. During the 18 months prior to October 2002, all CSF shunts included standard, nonimpregnated catheters. During the 18 months after October 2002, all CSF shunts included antibiotic-impregnated catheters. All patients were followed up for 6 months after shunt surgery, and all shunt-related complications, including shunt infection, were evaluated. The independent association of AIS catheter use with subsequent shunt infection was assessed via multivariate proportional hazards regression analysis.

A total of 211 pediatric patients underwent 353 shunt placement procedures. In the 18 months prior to October 2002, 208 (59%) shunts were placed with nonimpregnated catheters; 145 (41%) shunts were placed with AIS catheters in the 18 months after October 2002. Of patients with nonimpregnated catheters, 25 (12%) experienced shunt infection, whereas only two patients (1.4%) with antibiotic-impregnated catheters experienced shunt infection within the 6-month follow-up period (p < 0.01). Adjusting for intercohort differences via multivariate analysis, AIS catheters were independently associated with a 2.4-fold decreased likelihood of shunt infection.


The AIS catheter significantly reduced incidence of CSF shunt infection in children with hydrocephalus during the early postoperative period (< 6 months). The AIS system used is an effective instrument to prevent perioperative colonization of CSF shunt components.

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Graeme F. Woodworth, Matthew J. McGirt, Amer Samdani, Ira Garonzik, Alessandro Olivi and Jon D. Weingart


The gold standard for stereotactic brain biopsy target localization has been frame-based stereotaxy. Recently, frameless stereotactic techniques have become increasingly utilized. Few authors have evaluated this procedure, analyzed preoperative predictors of diagnostic yield, or explored the differences in diagnostic yield and morbidity rate between the frameless and frame-based techniques.


A consecutive series of 110 frameless and 160 frame-based image-guided stereotactic biopsy procedures was reviewed. Associated variables for both techniques were reviewed and compared. All stereotactic biopsy procedures were included in a risk factor analysis of nondiagnostic biopsy sampling.

Frameless stereotaxy led to a diagnostic yield of 89%, with a total permanent morbidity rate of 6% and a mortality rate of 1%. Larger lesions were fivefold more likely to yield diagnostic tissues. Deep-seated lesions were 2.7-fold less likely to yield diagnostic tissues compared with cortical lesions. Frameless compared with frame-based stereotactic biopsy procedures showed no significant differences in diagnostic yield or transient or permanent morbidity. For cortical lesions, more than one needle trajectory was required more frequently to obtain diagnostic tissues with frame-based as opposed to frameless stereotaxy, although this factor was not associated with morbidity.


With regard to diagnostic yield and complication rate, the frameless stereotactic biopsy procedure was found to be comparable to or better than the frame-based method. Smaller and deep-seated lesions together were risk factors for a nondiagnostic tissue yield. Frameless stereotaxy may represent a more efficient means of obtaining biopsy specimens of cortical lesions but is otherwise similar to the frame-based technique.

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Daniel M. Sciubba, Gaurav G. Mavinkurve, Philippe Gailloud, Ira M. Garonzik, Pablo F. Recinos, Matthew J. McGirt, Graeme F. Woodworth, Timothy Witham, Yevgeniv Khavkin, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Jean-Paul Wolinsky

✓ Angiography is often performed to identify the vascular supply of hemangioblastomas prior to resection. Conventional two-dimensional (2D) digital subtraction (DS) angiography and three-dimensional (3D) DS angiography provides high-resolution images of the vascular structures associated with these lesions. However, such 3D DS angiography often does not provide reliable anatomical information about nearby osseous structures, or when it does, resolution of vascular anatomy in the immediate vicinity of bone is sacrificed. A novel angiographic reconstruction algorithm was recently developed at The Johns Hopkins University to overcome these inadequacies. By combining two separate sequences of images of bone and blood vessels in a single 3D representation, 3D fusion DS (FDS) angiography provides precise topographic information about vascular lesions in relation to the osseous environment, without a loss of resolution.

In this paper, the authors present the cases of two patients with cervical spine hemangioblastomas who underwent preoperative evaluation with FDS angiography and then successful gross-total resection of their tumors. In both cases, FDS angiography provided high-resolution 3D images of the hemangioblastoma anatomy, including each tumor’s topographic relationship with adjacent osseous structures and the location and size of feeding arteries and draining veins. These cases provide evidence that FDS angiography represents a useful adjunct to magnetic resonance imaging and 2D DS angiography in the preoperative evaluation and surgical planning of patients with vascular lesions in an osseous environment, such as hemangioblastomas in the spinal cord.