Comparison of Motor Outcome in Patients Undergoing Awake vs General Anesthesia Surgery for Brain Tumors Located Within or Adjacent to the Motor Pathways

Neurosurgery, Volume 85, Issue 3, September 2019: E470–E476

Surgical removal of intra-axial brain tumors aims at maximal tumor resection while preserving function. The potential benefit of awake craniotomy over craniotomy under general anesthesia (GA) for motor preservation is yet unknown.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the clinical outcomes of patients who underwent surgery for perirolandic tumors while either awake or under GA.

METHODS: Between 2004 and 2015, 1126 patients underwent surgical resection of newly diagnosed intra-axial tumors in a single institution. Data from 85 patients (44 awake, 41 GA) with full dataset who underwent resections for perirolandic tumors were retrospectively analyzed.

RESULTS: Identification of the motor cortex required significantly higher stimulation thresholds in anesthetized patients (9.1 ± 4 vs 6.2 ± 2.7 mA for awake patients, P = .0008). There was no group difference in the subcortical threshold for motor response used to assess the proximity of the lesion to the corticospinal (pyramidal) tract. High-grade gliomas were the most commonly treated pathology. The extent of resection and residual tumor volume were not different between groups. Postoperative motor deficits were more common in the anesthetized patients at 1 wk (P = .046), but no difference between the groups was detected at 3 mo. Patients in the GA group had a longer mean length of hospitalization (10.3 vs 6.7 d for the awake group, P = .003).

CONCLUSION: Awake craniotomy results in a better early postoperative motor outcome and shorter hospitalization compared with patients who underwent the same surgery under GA. The finding of higher cortical thresholds for the identification of the motor cortex in anesthetized patients may suggest an inhibitory effect of anesthetic agents on motor function.