Insular gliomas can be resected with acceptable rates of neurological morbidity, but little is known with regard to impairment of higher-order neurocognitive functions. The frequency and functional impact of neurocognitive deficits in patients with gliomas has until recently been underappreciated. The authors therefore examined neurocognitive function in patients with insular gliomas and compared the findings in this group to those in a matched control group of patients with gliomas in nearby brain regions.
Methods. Thirty-three patients with WHO Grade II or III insular gliomas participated in neuropsychological evaluations before and after resection. To establish whether the pattern of neurocognitive performance was different from that of other patients with tumors in neighboring areas, patients with insular tumors were matched with control patients for age, educational level, preoperative Karnofsky Performance Scale score, tumor side, grade, and volume. The control group comprised patients in whom gliomas had been resected from frontal, temporal, and parietal areas near the insula. Baseline pre- and postoperative neurocognitive test results were compared between and within groups.
Results. Preoperative neurocognitive impairment was common in both insular and control groups. Patients with insular tumors had significantly worse preoperative performance on naming tests. In both groups, postoperative decline occurred in most neurocognitive domains. There were no statistically significant differences between patients in the insular and control groups with regard to rates of postoperative decline on any test. However, there were trends suggesting differential cognitive performance postoperatively, because patients with insular tumors were more likely to experience greater decline in learning and memory. Neurological morbidity was similar to prior rates reported in the literature.
Conclusions. Few statistically significant differences in cognitive function were observed between patients in the insular and control groups at either the pre- or postoperative evaluation, although there was a trend for patients with insular tumors to exhibit greater postoperative decline in learning and memory. Although technically more challenging, surgery for insular region glioma appears feasible without profound neurological or cognitive morbidity for many patients.