Object. Preserving vital cerebral function while maximizing tumor resection is a principal goal in surgical neurooncology. Although functional magnetic resonance imaging has been useful in the localization of eloquent cerebral cortex, this method does not provide information about the white matter tracts that may be involved in invasive, intrinsic brain tumors. Recently, diffusion-tensor (DT) imaging techniques have been used to map white matter tracts in the normal brain. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the role of DT imaging in preoperative mapping of white matter tracts in relation to cerebral neoplasms.
Methods. Nine patients with brain malignancies (one pilocytic astrocytoma, five oligodendrogliomas, one low-grade oligoastrocytoma, one Grade 4 astrocytoma, and one metastatic adenocarcinoma) underwent DT imaging examinations prior to tumor excision. Anatomical information about white matter tract location, orientation, and projections was obtained in every patient. Depending on the tumor type and location, evidence of white matter tract edema (two patients), infiltration (two patients), displacement (five patients), and disruption (two patients) could be assessed with the aid of DT imaging in each case.
Conclusions. Diffusion-tensor imaging allowed for visualization of white matter tracts and was found to be beneficial in the surgical planning for patients with intrinsic brain tumors. The authors' experience with DT imaging indicates that anatomically intact fibers may be present in abnormal-appearing areas of the brain. Whether resection of these involved fibers results in subtle postoperative neurological deficits requires further systematic study.