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Intraoperative confocal laser endomicroscopy: prospective in vivo feasibility study of a clinical-grade system for brain tumors

Irakliy Abramov, Marian T. Park, Evgenii Belykh, Alexander B. Dru, Yuan Xu, Timothy C. Gooldy, Lea Scherschinski, S. Harrison Farber, Andrew S. Little, Randall W. Porter, Kris A. Smith, Michael T. Lawton, Jennifer M. Eschbacher, and Mark C. Preul


The authors evaluated the feasibility of using the first clinical-grade confocal laser endomicroscopy (CLE) system using fluorescein sodium for intraoperative in vivo imaging of brain tumors.


A CLE system cleared by the FDA was used in 30 prospectively enrolled patients with 31 brain tumors (13 gliomas, 5 meningiomas, 6 other primary tumors, 3 metastases, and 4 reactive brain tissue). A neuropathologist classified CLE images as interpretable or noninterpretable. Images were compared with corresponding frozen and permanent histology sections, with image correlation to biopsy location using neuronavigation. The specificities and sensitivities of CLE images and frozen sections were calculated using permanent histological sections as the standard for comparison. A recently developed surgical telepathology software platform was used in 11 cases to provide real-time intraoperative consultation with a neuropathologist.


Overall, 10,713 CLE images from 335 regions of interest were acquired. The mean duration of the use of the CLE system was 7 minutes (range 3–18 minutes). Interpretable CLE images were obtained in all cases. The first interpretable image was acquired within a mean of 6 (SD 10) images and within the first 5 (SD 13) seconds of imaging; 4896 images (46%) were interpretable. Interpretable image acquisition was positively correlated with study progression, number of cases per surgeon, cumulative length of CLE time, and CLE time per case (p ≤ 0.01). The diagnostic accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of CLE compared with frozen sections were 94%, 94%, and 100%, respectively, and the diagnostic accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of CLE compared with permanent histological sections were 92%, 90%, and 94%, respectively. No difference was observed between lesion types for the time to first interpretable image (p = 0.35). Deeply located lesions were associated with a higher percentage of interpretable images than superficial lesions (p = 0.02). The study met the primary end points, confirming the safety and feasibility and acquisition of noninvasive digital biopsies in all cases. The study met the secondary end points for the duration of CLE use necessary to obtain interpretable images. A neuropathologist could interpret the CLE images in 29 (97%) of 30 cases.


The clinical-grade CLE system allows in vivo, intraoperative, high-resolution cellular visualization of tissue microstructure and identification of lesional tissue patterns in real time, without the need for tissue preparation.

Open access

Intraoperative confocal laser endomicroscopy for interpretation of a sellar hemangioblastoma: illustrative case

Irakliy Abramov, Charuta G Furey, Yuan Xu, Jennifer M Eschbacher, Kris A Smith, and Mark C Preul


Intraoperative frozen sections play a critical role in surgical strategy because of their ability to provide rapid histopathological information. In cases in which intraoperative biopsy carries a significant risk of bleeding, intraoperative confocal laser endomicroscopy (CLE) can assist in decision-making.


The authors present a rare case of a large sellar hemangioblastoma. Preoperative radiographic imaging and normal pituitary function suggested a differential diagnosis that included hemangioblastoma. The patient underwent partial preoperative embolization and a right-sided pterional craniotomy for resection of the lesion. Gross intraoperative examination revealed a highly vascular sellar lesion requiring circumferential dissection to minimize blood loss. The serious vascularity precluded intraoperative frozen section analysis, and CLE imaging was performed. CLE imaging provided excellent visualization of the remarkable vascular structure and characteristic histoarchitecture with microvasculature, intracytoplasmic vacuoles, and atypical cells consistent with hemangioblastoma. Resection and decompression of the chiasm was accomplished, and the patient was discharged with improved vision. The final histopathological diagnosis was hemangioblastoma.


When the benefits of obtaining intraoperative frozen sections greatly outweigh the associated risks, CLE imaging can aid in decision-making. CLE imaging offers real-time, on-the-fly evaluation of intraoperative tissue without the need to biopsy a vascular lesion.