Intraoperative mapping and monitoring of brain functions for the resection of low-grade gliomas

Neurosurg Focus 27 (4):E4, 2009. (DOI: 10.3171/2009.8.FOCUS09137)

Low-grade gliomas ([LGGs] WHO Grade II) are slow-growing intrinsic cerebral lesions that diffusely infiltrate the brain parenchyma along white matter tracts and almost invariably show a progression toward malignancy. The treatment of these tumors forces the neurosurgeon to face uncommon difficulties and is still a subject of debate. At the authors’ institution, resection is the first option in the treatment of LGGs. It requires the combined efforts of a multidisciplinary team of neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, neuropsychologists, and neurophysiologists, who together contribute to the definition of the location, extension, and extent of functional involvement that a specific lesion has caused in a particular patient. In fact, each tumor induces specific modifications of the brain functional network, with high interindividual variability. This requires that each treatment plan is tailored to the characteristics of the tumor and of the patient. Consequently, surgery is performed according to functional and anatomical boundaries to achieve the maximal resection with maximal functional preservation. The identification of eloquent cerebral areas, which are involved in motor, language, memory, and visuospatial functions and have to be preserved during surgery, is performed through the intraoperative use of brain mapping techniques. The use of these techniques extends surgical indications and improves the extent of resection, while minimizing the postoperative morbidity and safeguarding the patient’s quality of life.

In this paper the authors present their paradigm for the surgical treatment of LGGs, focusing on the intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring protocol as well as on the brain mapping technique. They briefly discuss the results that have been obtained at their institution since 2005 as well as the main critical points they have encountered when using this approach.