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Chang-Chia Liu, Shayan Moosa, Mark Quigg, and W. Jeffrey Elias

OBJECTIVE

Chronic pain results in an enormous societal and financial burden. Opioids are the mainstay of treatment, but opioid abuse has led to an epidemic in the United States. Nonpharmacological treatment strategies like deep brain stimulation could be applied to refractory chronic pain if safe and effective brain targets are identified. The anterior insula is a putative mediator of pain-related affective-motivational and cognitive-evaluative cerebral processing. However, the effect of anterior insula stimulation on pain perception is still unknown. Here, the authors provide behavioral and neurophysiological evidence for stimulating the anterior insula as a means of potential therapeutic intervention for patients with chronic pain.

METHODS

Six patients with epilepsy in whom intracerebral electrodes had been implanted for seizure localization were recruited to the study. The direct anterior insula stimulations were performed in the inpatient epilepsy monitoring unit while subjects were fully awake, comfortable, and without sedating medications. The effects of anterior insula stimulation were assessed with quantitative sensory testing for heat pain threshold, nociceptive-specific cutaneous laser-evoked potentials, and intracranial electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings. Control stimulation of noninsular brain regions was performed to test stimulation specificity. Sham stimulations, in which no current was delivered, were also performed to control for potential placebo effects. The safety of these stimulations was evaluated by bedside physicians, real-time intracranial EEG monitoring, and electrocardiogram recordings.

RESULTS

Following anterior insula stimulations, the heat pain threshold of each patient significantly increased from baseline (p < 0.001) and correlated with stimulation intensity (regression analysis: β = 0.5712, standard error 0.070, p < 0.001). Significant changes in ongoing intracranial EEG frequency band powers (p < 0.001), reduction in laser pain intensity, and attenuated laser-evoked potentials were also observed following stimulations. Furthermore, the observed behavioral and neurophysiological effects persisted beyond the stimulations. Subjects were not aware of the stimulations, and there were no cardiovascular or untoward effects.

CONCLUSIONS

Additional, nonpharmacological therapies are imperative for the future management of chronic pain conditions and to mitigate the ongoing opioid crisis. This study suggests that direct stimulation of the anterior insula can safely alter cerebral pain processing in humans. Further investigation of the anterior insula as a potential target for therapeutic neuromodulation is underway.

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Martin J. Rutkowski, Ki-Eun Chang, Tyler Cardinal, Robin Du, Ali R. Tafreshi, Daniel A. Donoho, Andrew Brunswick, Alexander Micko, Chia-Shang J. Liu, Mark S. Shiroishi, John D. Carmichael, and Gabriel Zada

OBJECTIVE

Pituitary adenoma (PA) consistency, or texture, is an important intraoperative characteristic that may dictate operative dissection techniques and/or instruments used for tumor removal during endoscopic endonasal approaches (EEAs). The impact of PA consistency on surgical outcomes has yet to be elucidated.

METHODS

The authors developed an objective 5-point grading scale for PA consistency based on intraoperative characteristics, including ease of tumor debulking, manipulation, and instrument selection, ranging from cystic/hemorrhagic tumors (grade 1) to calcified tumors (grade 5). The proposed grading system was prospectively assessed in 306 consecutive patients who underwent an EEA for PAs, and who were subsequently analyzed for associations with surgical outcomes, including extent of resection (EOR) and complication profiles.

RESULTS

Institutional database review identified 306 patients who underwent intraoperative assessment of PA consistency, of which 96% were macroadenomas, 70% had suprasellar extension, and 44% had cavernous sinus invasion (CSI). There were 214 (69.9%) nonfunctional PAs and 92 functional PAs (31.1%). Distribution of scores included 15 grade 1 tumors (4.9%), 112 grade 2 tumors (36.6%), 125 grade 3 tumors (40.8%), 52 grade 4 tumors (17%), and 2 grade 5 tumors (0.7%). Compared to grade 1/2 and grade 3 PAs, grade 4/5 PAs were significantly larger (22.5 vs 26.6 vs 27.4 mm, p < 0.01), more likely to exhibit CSI (39% vs 42% vs 59%, p < 0.05), and trended toward nonfunctionality (67% vs 68% vs 82%, p = 0.086). Although there was no association between PA consistency and preoperative headaches or visual dysfunction, grade 4/5 PAs trended toward preoperative (p = 0.058) and postoperative panhypopituitarism (p = 0.066). Patients with preoperative visual dysfunction experienced greater improvement if they had a grade 1/2 PA (p < 0.05). Intraoperative CSF leaks were noted in 32% of cases and were more common with higher-consistency-grade tumors (p = 0.048), although this difference did not translate to postoperative CSF leaks. Gross-total resection (%) was more likely with lower PA consistency score as follows: grade 1/2 (60%), grade 3 (50%), grade 4/5 (44%; p = 0.045). Extracapsular techniques were almost exclusively performed in grade 4/5 PAs. Assignment of scores showed low variance and high reproducibility, with an intraclass correlation coefficient of 0.905 (95% CI 0.815–0.958), indicating excellent interrater reliability.

CONCLUSIONS

These findings demonstrate clinical validity of the proposed intraoperative grading scale with respect to PA subtype, neuroimaging features, EOR, and endocrine complications. Future studies will assess the relation of PA consistency to preoperative MRI findings to accurately predict consistency, thereby allowing the surgeon to tailor the exposure and prepare for varying resection strategies.