Intraoperative MRI–based elastic fusion for anatomically accurate tractography of the corticospinal tract

Neurosurg Focus 50 (1):E9, 2021

Tractography is a useful technique that is standardly applied to visualize subcortical pathways. However, brain shift hampers tractography use during the course of surgery. While intraoperative MRI (ioMRI) has been shown to be beneficial for use in oncology, intraoperative tractography can rarely be performed due to scanner, protocol, or head clamp limitations. Elastic fusion (EF), however, enables adjustment for brain shift of preoperative imaging and even tractography based on intraoperative images. The authors tested the hypothesis that adjustment of tractography by ioMRI-based EF (IBEF) correlates with the results of intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) and clinical outcome and is therefore a reliable method.

METHODS In 304 consecutive patients treated between June 2018 and March 2020, 8 patients, who made up the basic study cohort, showed an intraoperative loss of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) during motor-eloquent glioma resection for a subcortical lesion within the corticospinal tract (CST) as shown by ioMRI. The authors preoperatively visualized the CST using tractography. Also, IBEFs of pre- and intraoperative images were obtained and the location of the CST was compared in relation to a subcortical lesion. In 11 patients (8 patients with intraoperative loss of MEPs, one of whom also showed loss of MEPs on IBEF evaluation, plus 3 additional patients with loss of MEPs on IBEF evaluation), the authors examined the location of the CST by direct subcortical stimulation (DSCS). The authors defined the IONM results and the functional outcome data as ground truth for analysis.

RESULTS The maximum mean ± SD correction was 8.8 ± 2.9 (range 3.8–12.0) mm for the whole brain and 5.3 ± 2.4 (range 1.2–8.7) mm for the CST. The CST was located within the lesion before IBEF in 3 cases and after IBEF in all cases (p = 0.0256). All patients with intraoperative loss of MEPs suffered from surgery-related permanent motor deficits. By approximation, the location of the CST after IBEF could be verified by DSCS in 4 cases.

CONCLUSIONS The present study shows that tractography after IBEF accurately correlates with IONM and patient outcomes and thus demonstrates reliability in this initial study.