This prospective longitudinally designed study was conducted to evaluate language functions pre- and postoperatively in patients who underwent microsurgical treatment of tumors in close proximity to or within language areas and to detect those patients at risk for a postoperative aphasic disturbance.
Between 1991 and 2005, 153 awake craniotomies with subsequent cortical mapping of language functions were performed in 149 patients. Language functions were assessed using a standardized test battery. Risk factors were obtained from multivariate logistic regression models.
Language mapping was able to be performed in all patients, and complete tumor resection was achieved in 48.4%. Within 21 days after surgery a new language deficit (aphasic disturbance) was observed in 41 (32%) of the 128 cases without preoperative deficits. There were a total of 60 cases involving postoperative aphasic disturbances, including cases both with and without preoperative disturbances. Risk factors for postoperative aphasic disturbance were preoperative aphasia (p < 0.0002), intraoperative complications (p < 0.02), language-positive sites within the tumor (p < 0.001), and nonfrontal lesion location (p < 0.001). In patients without a preoperative deficit, a normal (yet submaximal) naming performance was a powerful predictor for an early postoperative aphasic disturbance (p < 0.0003). Seven months after treatment 10.9% of the 128 cases without preoperative aphasic disturbances continued to demonstrate new postoperative language disturbances. A total of 17.6% of all cases demonstrated new postoperative language disturbances after 7 months. Risk factors for persistent aphasic disturbance were increased age (> 40 years, p < 0.02) and preoperative aphasia (p < 0.001).
Every attempt should be undertaken to preserve language-relevant areas intraoperatively, even when they are located within the tumor. New postoperative deficits resolve in the majority of patients, which may be a result of cortical mapping as well as functional reorganization.