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Editorial: Neurosurgical Focus yearly summary

Martin H. Weiss

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Editorial. The establishment of Neurosurgical Focus: personal reflections by the Editors-in-Chief

Martin H. Weiss and William T. Couldwell

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Defining postoperative values for successful resection of prolactinomas

Clinical pearl

William T. Couldwell and Martin H. Weiss

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The role of stereotactic radiosurgery in the multimodal management of growth hormone–secreting pituitary adenomas

Christopher J. Stapleton, Charles Y. Liu, and Martin H. Weiss

Growth hormone (GH)–secreting pituitary adenomas represent a common source of GH excess in patients with acromegaly. Whereas surgical extirpation of the culprit lesion is considered first-line treatment, as many as 19% of patients develop recurrent symptoms due to regrowth of previously resected adenomatous tissue or to continued growth of the surgically inaccessible tumor. Although medical therapies that suppress GH production can be effective in the management of primary and recurrent acromegaly, these therapies are not curative, and lifelong treatment is required for hormonal control. Stereotactic radiosurgery has emerged as an effective adjunctive treatment modality, and is an appealing alternative to conventional fractionated radiation therapy. The authors reviewed the growing body of literature concerning the role of radiosurgical procedures in the treatment armamentarium of acromegaly, and identified more than 1350 patients across 45 case series. In this review, the authors report that radiosurgery offers true hormonal normalization in 17% to 82% of patients and tumor growth control in 37% to 100% of cases across all series, while minimizing adverse complications. As a result, stereotactic radiosurgery represents a safe and effective treatment option in the multimodal management of primary or recurrent acromegaly secondary to GH-secreting pituitary adenomas.

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Simple closure following transsphenoidal surgery

Technical note

William T. Couldwell, Peter Kan, and Martin H. Weiss

✓ The most common nonendocrine complication after transsphenoidal surgery is cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. Many neurosurgeons have advocated the routine reconstruction of the floor of the sella turcica using autologous fat, muscle, fascia, and either cartilage or bone after transsphenoidal surgery to prevent postoperative CSF fistulas. However, the use of autologous grafting requires a second incision, prolongs operative time, and adds to the patient's postoperative discomfort. In addition, the presence of sellar packing may interfere with the interpretation of postoperative images. To avoid these disadvantages, the authors suggest that routine sellar reconstruction or closure after transsphenoidal surgery is unnecessary unless an intraoperative CSF leak is encountered. The incidence of postoperative CSF leakage in the patients reported on in this series is no higher than that reported by others, and no other complications such as pneu-matocele have been encountered in approximately 2700 patients in whom no intraoperative CSF leak was encountered. The authors conclude that routine closure of the floor of the sella turcica or sphenoid is unnecessary in the absence of intraoperative CSF leak.

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Colao A, Di Sarno A, Cappabianca P, et al: Withdrawal of long-term cabergoline therapy for tumoral and nontumoral hyperprolactinemia. N Engl J Med 349:2023–2033, 2003

William T. Couldwell, Martin H. Weiss, and Edward R. Laws Jr


Whether the withdrawal of treatment in patients with nontumoral hyperprolactinemia, microprolactinomas, or macroprolactinomas is safe and effective has been unclear. We performed an observational, prospective study of cabergoline (a dopamine-receptor agonist) withdrawal in such patients.


The study population included 200 patients—25 patients with nontumoral hyperprolactinemia, 105 with microprolactinomas, and 70 with macroprolactinomas. Withdrawal of cabergoline was considered if prolactin levels were normal, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed no tumor (or tumor reduction of 50 percent or more, with the tumor at a distance of more than 5 mm from the optic chiasm, and no invasion of the cavernous sinuses or other critical areas), and if follow-up after withdrawal could be continued for at least 24 months.


Recurrence rates two to five years after the withdrawal of cabergoline were 24 percent in patients with nontumoral hyperprolactinemia, 31 percent in patients with microprolactinomas, and 36 percent in patients with macroprolactinomas. Renewed tumor growth did not occur in any patient; in 10 female patients (22 percent) and 7 male patients (39 percent) with recurrent hyperprolactinemia, gonadal dysfunction redeveloped. In all diagnostic groups, prolactin levels at the time of recurrence were significantly lower than at diagnosis (p < 0.001). The Kaplan–Meier estimated rate of recurrence at five years was higher among patients with macroprolactinomas and those with microprolactinomas who had small remnant tumors visible on MRI at the time of treatment withdrawal than among patients whose MRI scans showed no evidence of tumor at the time of withdrawal (patients with macroprolactinomas, 78 percent vs. 33 percent, P = 0.001; patients with microprolactinomas, 42 percent vs. 26 percent, P = 0.02).


Cabergoline can be safely withdrawn in patients with normalized prolactin levels and no evidence of tumor. However, because the length of follow-up in our study was insufficient to rule out a delayed increase in the size of the tumor, we suggest that patients be closely monitored, particularly those with macroprolactinomas, in whom renewed growth of the tumor may compromise vision.

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Nelson syndrome: historical perspectives and current concepts

Mark Hornyak, Martin H. Weiss, Don H. Nelson, and William T. Couldwell

✓The appearance of an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)–producing tumor after bilateral adrenalectomy for Cushing disease was first described by Nelson in 1958. The syndrome that now bears his name was characterized by hyperpigmentation, a sellar mass, and increased plasma ACTH levels. The treatment of Cushing disease has changed drastically since the 1950s, when the choice was adrenalectomy. Thus, the occurrence, diagnosis, and treatment of Nelson syndrome have changed as well. In the modern era of high-resolution neuroimaging, transsphenoidal microneu-rosurgery, and stereotactic radiosurgery, Nelson syndrome has become a rare entity. The authors describe the history of the diagnosis and treatment of Nelson syndrome. In light of the changes described, the authors believe this disease must be reevaluated in the contemporary era and a modern paradigm adopted.

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Experience in the surgical management of 82 symptomatic herniated thoracic discs and review of the literature

Charles B. Stillerman, Thomas C. Chen, William T. Couldwell, Wei Zhang, and Martin H. Weiss


The authors aimed to develop management strategies for the treatment of herniated thoracic discs and to define indications for selection of surgical approaches. Symptomatic thoracic discs requiring surgery are rare. Between 1971 and 1995, 71 patients with 82 herniated thoracic discs were surgically treated by the authors. The treated group included 34 men and 37 women whose ages ranged from 19 to 75 years, with a mean age of 48 years. The most common sites of disc herniation requiring surgery were from T-8 to T-11. Evidence of antecedent trauma was present in 37% of the patients. Preoperative symptoms included pain (localized, axial, or radicular) in 54 (76%) of the 71 patients, evidence of myelopathy that is, motor impairment in 43 (61%), hyperreflexia and spasticity in 41 (58%), sensory impairment 43 (61%), and bladder dysfunction in 17 (24%).


Radiological diagnosis for the patients in this series was accomplished by means of myelography, computerized tomography myelography, or magnetic resonance imaging. Classification of the disc location into two groups reveals that 94% were centrolateral and 6% were lateral. Evidence of calcification was present in 65% of patients, and in 7% intradural extension was noted at surgery. Ten patients (14%) were found to have multiple herniations. Four surgical approaches were used for the removal of these 82 disc herniations: transthoracic in 49 (60%), transfacet pedicle-sparing in 23 (28%), lateral extracavitary in eight (10%), and transpedicular in two (2%). Postoperative evaluation revealed improvement or resolution of pain in 47 (87%) of 54, hyperreflexia and spasticity in 39 (95%) of 41, sensory changes in 36 (84%) of 43, bowel/bladder dysfunction in 13 (76%) of 17, and motor impairment in 25 (58%) of 43. Complications occurred in a total of 12 (14.6%) of 82 discs treated surgically. Major complications were seen in three patients and included perioperative death from cardiopulmonary compromise, instability requiring further surgery, and an increase in the severity of a preoperative paraparesis.


Review of this series, with the attendant complications, together with evaluation of several contemporary thoracic disc series, has facilitated the authors' decision-making process when considering the comprehensive management of these patients, including the selection of a surgical approach.

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The transfacet pedicle-sparing approach for thoracic disc removal: cadaveric morphometric analysis and preliminary clinical experience

Charles B. Stillerman, Thomas C. Chen, J. Diaz Day, William T. Couldwell, and Martin H. Weiss

A number of operative techniques have been described for the treatment of herniated thoracic discs. The transfacet pedicle-sparing approach allows for complete disc removal with limited spinal column disruption and soft-tissue dissection. Fifteen cadaveric spinal columns were used for evaluation of exposure, development of thoracic microdiscectomy instrumentation, and establishment of morphometric measurements. This approach was used to remove eight thoracic discs in six patients. Levels of herniation ranged from T-7 through T-11. Preoperatively, all patients had moderate to severe axial pain, and three (50%) of the six had radicular pain. Myelopathy was present in four (67%) of the six patients. Through a 4-cm opening, the ipsilateral paraspinal muscles were reflected, and a partial facetectomy was performed. The disc was then removed using specially designed microscopic instrumentation. Postoperatively, the radiculopathy resolved in all patients. Axial pain and myelopathy were completely resolved or significantly improved in all patients.

The minimal amount of bone resection and muscle dissection involved in the operation allows for: 1) decreased operative time and blood loss; 2) diminished perioperative pain; 3) shorter hospitalization time and faster return to premorbid activity; 4) avoidance of closed chest tube drainage; and 5) preservation of the integrity of the facet-pedicle complex, with potential for improvement in outcome related to axial pain. This technique appears best suited for the removal of all centrolateral discs, although it has been used successfully for treating a disc occupying nearly the entire ventral canal. The initial experience suggests that this approach may be used to safely remove appropriately selected thoracic disc herniations with good results.

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Prognostic variables in surgery for skull base meningiomas

Michael A. Lefkowitz, David R. Hinton, Martin H. Weiss, Steven L. Giannotta, and William T. Couldwell

The authors have retrospectively analyzed selected surgical and pathological observations made among a group of 20 patients harboring recurrent cranial base meningiomas in an attempt to reveal which factors may be important in predicting tumor recurrence. This cohort was compared with a group of 34 patients with cranial base meningiomas that underwent primary resection and in whom tumor recurrence has not been demonstrated over a median follow-up period of 33 months. Features analyzed included brain, cranial nerve, carotid artery, or muscle invasion as well as tumor cellularity, nucleolar prominence, cellular pleomorphism, and percentage of cells staining positive for the Ki-67 antigen. As expected, increased cellularity and tumor necrosis were relatively more prevalent in recurrent tumors. With regard to tumor type, atypical and anaplastic tumors were more common in the group of patients with recurrent tumor compared with the primary group (p < 0.02). As expected, increased cellularity was relatively more prominent in recurrent tumors. Invasion of muscle and bone (72%) was more frequently associated with recurrent tumors, suggesting that these characteristics may be important features of recurrent skull base meningiomas.