Surgical management of cerebellar hemangioblastomas in patients with von Hippel–Lindau disease

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  • 1 Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland; and
  • 2 Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia
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Object

Despite the frequency of cerebellar hemangioblastomas in von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) disease, their optimum contemporary management has not been defined, and is made complex because of the multiple, progressive, and protean nature of the tumors found in patients with this disorder. To examine modern management and outcomes of cerebellar hemangioblastomas in VHL disease, the authors reviewed findings in patients with this disease who underwent resection of cerebellar hemangioblastomas.

Methods

Consecutive patients with VHL disease who underwent surgery for cerebellar hemangioblastoma(s) at the National Institutes of Health were included. Eighty consecutive patients (44 female and 36 male patients) underwent 126 operations for removal of 164 cerebellar hemangioblastomas (age at surgery 37.8 ± 10.3 years, follow-up duration 96.0 ± 60.3 months). Serial clinical examinations, imaging studies, and operative records were analyzed.

Results

Symptoms and signs included headache (94 operations; 75%), ataxia (55%), dysmetria (29%), and hydrocephalus (28%). Although the primary objective of surgery was resection of the hemangioblastoma considered responsible for symptoms (136 of the hemangioblastomas [83%]), 28 additional hemangioblastomas (17%) were removed during the same surgeries. Tumors associated with symptoms were larger (diameter 1.8 ± 1.9 cm; volume 2.8 ± 3.4 cm3; p < 0.05) and more likely to be associated with peritumoral edema or peritumoral cysts (100% associated with edema and/or cyst; p < 0.05) than asymptomatic tumors (diameter 1.1 ± 0.9 cm; volume 0.7 ± 0.4 cm3; 18%). More tumors were located in the posterior (74%) compared with the anterior (26%) half of the cerebellum (p < 0.05). Three months after resection, symptom improvement/stabilization had occurred following 124 of the operations (98%). Preoperative hydrocephalus resolved after tumor removal in 33 cases (94%) and did not require cerebrospinal fluid diversion. Long-term imaging follow-up (61.5 ± 15.0 months) revealed no recurrences.

Conclusions

Symptoms and signs caused by cerebellar hemangioblastomas in VHL disease are associated with edema and peritumoral cyst formation/propagation and are treated safely and effectively with resection. Cerebrospinal fluid diversion is rarely necessary after complete tumor removal in patients with preoperative hydrocephalus. Cerebellar hemangioblastomas are preferentially distributed in the posterior half of the cerebellum, as they are in the brainstem and spinal cord. Tumor recurrence is avoided by meticulous extracapsular resection.

Abbreviations used in this paper: CNS = central nervous system; CSF = cerebrospinal fluid; KPS = Karnofsky Performance Scale; MR = magnetic resonance; NIH = National Institutes of Health; SD = standard deviation; VHL = von Hippel–Lindau.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Russell R. Lonser, M.D., Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Building 10, Room 5D37, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1414. email: lonserr@ninds.nih.gov.
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