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Editorial

Arteriovenous malformations

Douglas Kondziolka

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Bruce E. Pollock

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Chun Po Yen, Jason Sheehan, Greg Patterson, and Ladislau Steiner

Object

Although considered benign tumors, neurocytomas have various biological behaviors, histological patterns, and clinical courses. In the last 15 years, fractionated radiotherapy and radiosurgery in addition to microsurgery have been used in their management. In this study, the authors present their experience using Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) in the treatment of these tumors.

Methods

Between 1989 and 2004, the authors performed GKS in seven patients with a total of nine neurocytomas. Three patients harbored five recurrent tumors after a gross-total resection, three had progression of previous partially resected tumors, and one had undergone a tumor biopsy only. The mean tumor volume at the time of GKS ranged from 1.4 to 19.8 cm3 (mean 6.0 cm3). A mean peripheral dose of 16 Gy was prescribed to the tumor margin with the median isodose configuration of 32.5%.

Results

After a mean follow-up period of 60 months, four of the nine tumors treated disappeared and four shrank significantly. Because of secondary hemorrhage, an accurate tumor volume could not be determined in one. Four patients were asymptomatic during the follow-up period, and the condition of the patient who had residual hemiparesis from a previous transcortical resection of the tumor was stable. Additionally, the patient who experienced tumor hemorrhage required a shunt revision, and another patient died of sepsis due to a shunt infection.

Conclusions

Based on this limited experience, GKS seems to be an appropriate management alternative. It offers control over the tumor with the benefits of minimal invasiveness and low morbidity rates. Recurrence, however, is not unusual following both microsurgery and GKS. Open-ended follow-up imaging is required to detect early recurrence and determine the need for retreatment.

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Chun Po Yen, Jason Sheehan, Greg Patterson, and Ladislau Steiner

Object

The authors review imaging and clinical outcomes in patients with metastatic brainstem tumors treated using Gamma Knife surgery (GKS).

Methods

Between March 1989 and March 2005, 53 patients (24 men and 29 women) with metastatic brainstem lesions underwent GKS. The metastatic deposits were located in the midbrain in eight patients, the pons in 42, and the medulla oblongata in three. Lung cancer was the most common primary malignancy, followed by breast cancer, melanoma, and renal cell carcinoma. The mean volume of the metastatic deposits at the time of treatment was 2.8 cm3 (range 0.05–21 cm3). The prescription doses varied from 9 to 25 Gy (mean 17.6 Gy).

Imaging follow-up studies were not completed in 16 patients, because of the short-term survival in 11 and patient refusal in five. Of the remaining 37 patients, who underwent an imaging follow-up evaluation at a mean of 9.8 months (range 1–25 months), the tumors disappeared in seven, shrank in 22, remained unchanged in three, and grew in five. All but one of 18 patients with asymptomatic brainstem deposits remained free of symptoms. In 35 patients with symptomatic brainstem deposits, neurological symptoms improved in 21, remained stable in 11, and worsened in three. At the time of this study, 10 patients were alive, and their survival ranged from 3 to 52 months after treatment. Thirty-four patients died of extracranial disease, three of the progressing metastatic brainstem lesion, and six of additional progressing intracranial deposits in other parts of the brain. The overall median survival period was 11 months after GKS. In terms of survival, the absence of active extracranial disease was the only favorable prognostic factor. Neither previous whole-brain radiation therapy nor a single brainstem metastasis was statistically related to the duration of survival.

Conclusions

Compared with allowing a metastatic brainstem lesion to take its natural course, GKS prolongs survival. The risks associated with such treatment are low. The severity of systemic diseases largely determines the prognosis of metastases to the brainstem.

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Jason Sheehan, Chun Po Yen, Yasser Arkha, David Schlesinger, and Ladislau Steiner

Object

Trigeminal schwannomas are rare intracranial tumors. In the past, resection and radiation therapy were the mainstays of their treatment. More recently, neurosurgeons have begun to use radiosurgery in the treatment of trigeminal schwannomas because of its successful use in the treatment of vestibular schwannomas. In this article the authors evaluate the radiological and clinical outcomes in a series of patients in whom Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) was used to treat trigeminal schwannomas.

Methods

Twenty-six patients with trigeminal schwannomas underwent GKS at the University of Virginia Lars Lek-sell Gamma Knife Center between 1989 and 2005. Five of these patients had neurofibromatosis and one patient was lost to follow up. The median tumor volume was 3.96 cm3, and the mean follow-up period was 48.5 months. The median prescription radiation dose was 15 Gy, and the median prescription isodose configuration was 50%. There was clinical improvement in 18 patients (72%), a stable lesion in four patients (16%), and worsening of the disease in three patients (12%). On imaging, the schwannomas shrank in 12 patients (48%), remained stable in 10 patients (40%), and increased in size in three patients (12%). These results were comparable for primary and adjuvant GKSs. No tumor growth following GKS was observed in the patients with neurofibromatosis.

Conclusions

Gamma Knife surgery affords a favorable risk-to-benefit profile for patients harboring trigeminal schwannomas. Larger studies with open-ended follow-up review will be necessary to determine the long-term results and complications of GKS in the treatment of trigeminal schwannomas.

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Jason Sheehan and Chun Po Yen

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Chun Po Yen, Jason Sheehan, Melita Steiner, Greg Patterson, and Ladislau Steiner

Object

Focal tumors, a distinct subgroup of which is composed of brainstem gliomas, may have an indolent clinical course. In the past, their management involved monitoring of open-ended imaging studies and shunt placement if cerebrospinal fluid diversion was required. Nonetheless, their treatment remains a significant challenge for neurosurgeons. Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) has recently been tried as an alternative to surgical extirpation. In the present study the authors assess clinical and imaging results in 20 patients who harbored focal brainstem gliomas treated with GKS between 1990 and 2001.

Methods

There were 10 male and 10 female patients with a mean age of 19.1 years. Sixteen tumors were located in the midbrain, three in the pons, and one in the medulla oblongata. The mean tumor volume at the time of GKS was 2.5 cm3. In 10 cases a tumor specimen was obtained either by open surgery or stereotactic biopsy, securing the diagnosis of pilocytic astrocytoma in five patients and nonpilocytic astrocytoma in five others. In the remaining 10 cases, the diagnosis was based on clinical and neuroimaging findings. The prescription Gamma Knife dose varied between 10 and 18 Gy, except in three patients who were receiving a boost to a site in which external-beam radiation was previously delivered. An average of four isocenters were utilized per GKS.

Patients were followed up for a mean of 78.0 months. The tumors disappeared in four patients and shrank in 12 patients. Of these patients, one experienced transitory extrapyramidal symptoms and fluctuating impairment of consciousness (from somnolence to coma) for 6 months. Another patient whose tumor disappeared 3 years following GKS died of stroke 8 years postoperatively. The rest of the patients either remained stable or improved clinically. Tumor progression occurred in four patients; of these four, one patient developed hydrocephalus requiring a ventriculoperitoneal shunt, two showed neurological deterioration, and one 4-year-old boy died of tumor progression.

Conclusions

Gamma Knife surgery may be an effective primary treatment or adjunct to open surgery for focal brainstem gliomas.

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Robert G. Louis Jr., Chun Po Yen, Carrie A. Mohila, James W. Mandell, and Jason Sheehan

The authors report the case of a patient with an intraosseous spinal arteriovenous malformation (AVM) presenting as an epidural mass lesion that was causing spinal cord compression. The 59-year-old woman had bilateral numbness, weakness, and hyperreflexia of both legs. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed intermediate T1 signal and hyperintense T2 signal involving the right transverse process, bilateral pedicles, and T-5 spinous process; the lesion's epidural extension was causing severe canal compromise and cord displacement. Coil embolization was performed, and the patient underwent resection, after which preoperative symptoms improved. Histopathological analysis revealed a benign vascular proliferation consistent with an intraosseous spinal AVM. On review of the literature, the authors found this case to be the second intraosseous spinal AVM, and the first in a patient whose clinical presentation was consistent with that of a mass lesion of the bone.

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Ayhan Kanat

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Chun Po Yen, Stephen J. Monteith, James H. Nguyen, Jessica Rainey, David J. Schlesinger, and Jason P. Sheehan

Object

The aim of this study was to evaluate the long-term imaging and clinical outcomes of intracranial arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in children treated with Gamma Knife surgery (GKS).

Methods

Between 1989 and 2007, 200 patients with AVMs who were 18 years of age or younger were treated at the University of Virginia Health System. Excluding 14 patients who had not reached 2-year follow-up, 186 patients comprised this study. Hemorrhage was the most common presenting symptom leading to the diagnosis of AVMs (71.5%). The mean nidus volume was 3.2 cm3 at the time of GKS, and a mean prescription dose of 21.9 Gy was used.

Results

After initial GKS, 49.5% of patients achieved total angiographic obliteration. Forty-one patients whose AVM nidi remained patent underwent additional GKS. The obliteration rate increased to 58.6% after a second or multiple GKS. Subtotal obliteration was achieved in 9 patients (4.8%). Forty-nine patients (26.3%) still had a patent residual nidus. In 19 patients (10.2%), obliteration was confirmed on MR imaging only. Ten patients had 17 hemorrhages during the follow-up period. The hemorrhage rate was 5.4% within 2 years after GKS and 0.8% between 2 and 5 years. Six patients developed neurological deficits along with the radiation-induced changes. Two patients developed asymptomatic meningiomas 10 and 12 years after GKS. After a mean clinical follow-up of 98 months, less than 4% of patients had difficulty attending school or developing a career.

Conclusions

Gamma Knife surgery offers a reasonable chance of obliteration of an AVM in pediatric patients. The incidence of symptomatic radiation-induced changes is relatively low; however, long-term clinical and imaging follow-up is required to identify delayed cyst formation and secondary tumors.