Harvey Cushing, credited with pioneering the field of neurosurgery as a distinct surgical subspecialty in the US, was at the forefront of neurooncology, publishing seminal papers on the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric brain tumors during the latter part of his career. However, his contributions to the surgical treatment of these lesions during the early stages of his tenure at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, from 1896 to 1912, remain largely unknown.
After obtaining institutional review board approval, and through the courtesy of the Alan Mason Chesney Archives, the authors reviewed the Johns Hopkins Hospital surgical files from the years 1896 to 1912. Patients younger than 18 years of age, presenting with symptoms suspicious for an intracranial tumor, and undergoing surgical intervention by Cushing were selected for further analysis.
Of the 40 pediatric patients undergoing surgery for suspected intracranial neoplasms, 26 were male. The mean age among the entire sample was 10.1 years. Cushing used three main operative approaches in the surgical treatment of pediatric intracranial neoplasms: infratentorial/suboccipital, subtemporal, and hemisphere flap. Twenty-three patients had negative findings following both the primary and subsequent surgical interventions conducted by Cushing. Postoperative conditions following the primary surgical intervention were improved in 24 patients. Twelve patients (30%) died during their inpatient stay for the primary intervention. The mean time to the last follow-up was 24.9 months; the mean time to death was 10.0 months.
Cushing strove to maximize exposure while minimizing blood loss in an attempt to increase his ability to successfully treat pediatric brain tumors. His early contributions to the field of pediatric neurooncology demonstrate his commitment to advancing the field of neurosurgery.