Unreliability of contemporary neurodiagnostic imaging in evaluating suspected adult supratentorial (low-grade) astrocytoma

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✓ Many physicians rely upon neuroimaging studies alone to select therapy for adult patients suspected of having a glial neoplasm, in the belief that certain imaging features accurately characterize the histological diagnosis of low-grade astrocytoma. During a 4-year interval when both computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging was available, the authors performed stereotactic biopsies on 20 consecutive adult patients who were suspected of having an astrocytoma. The patients were generally young (mean age 37 years), had seizures (17 cases), and had lobar lesions. An accurate histological diagnosis was obtained, without morbidity, in all 20 patients. Only 10 (50%) in fact had low-grade astrocytomas, whereas nine (45%) had anaplastic astrocytomas and one (5%) had encephalitis. The results of this study indicate that modern high-resolution neuroimaging alone cannot be used as a reliable tool to predict the histological diagnosis of astrocytoma (50% false-positive rate). All patients with supratentorial mass lesions that exhibit the “typical” imaging features of astrocytoma should undergo stereotactic biopsy for confirmation in order that appropriate management may be planned.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Douglas Kondziolka, M.D., M.Sc., F.R.C.S.(C), Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, Presbyterian-University Hospital, Room F-948, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213.

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