The authors retrospectively reviewed the efficacy and safety of Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) in patients with brainstem cavernous malformations (CMs). The CMs had bled repeatedly and placed the patients at high risk with respect to surgical intervention.
Between 1993 and 2010, 49 patients with symptomatic CMs were treated by GKS. The mean age in these patients was 37.8 years, and the predominant sex was female (59.2%). All 49 patients experienced at least 2 instances of repeated bleeding before GKS; these hemorrhages caused neurological deficits including cranial nerve deficits, hemiparesis, hemisensory deficits, spasticity, chorea or athetosis, and consciousness disturbance.
The mean size of the CMs at the time of GKS was 3.2 cm3 (range 0.1–14.6 cm3). The mean radiation dose directed to the lesion was 11 Gy with an isodose level at 60.0%. The mean clinical and imaging follow-up time was 40.6 months (range 1.0–150.7 months). Forty-five patients participated in regularly scheduled follow-up. Twenty-nine patients (59.2%) were followed up for > 2 years, and 16 (32.7%) were followed up for < 2 years. The pre-GKS annual hemorrhage rate was 31.3% (69 symptomatic hemorrhages during a total of 220.3 patient-years). After GKS, 3 episodes of symptomatic hemorrhage were observed within the first 2 years of follow-up (4.29% annual hemorrhage rate), and 3 episodes of symptomatic hemorrhage were observed after the first 2 years of follow-up (3.64% annual hemorrhage rate). In this study of 49 patients, symptomatic radiation-induced complications developed in only 2 patients (4.1%; cyst formation in 1 patient and perifocal edema with neurological deficits in the other patient). There were no deaths in this group.
Gamma Knife surgery is effective in reducing the rate of recurrent hemorrhage. In the authors' experience, it was possible to control bleeding using a low-dose treatment. In addition, there were few symptomatic radiation-induced complications. As a result, the authors believe that GKS is a good alternative treatment for brainstem CMs.