J Neurooncol (2013) 112:141–152
Differentiating post radiation necrosis from progression of glioma and pseudoprogression poses a diagnostic conundrum for many clinicians. As radiation therapy and temozolomide chemotherapy have become the mainstay of treatment for higher-grade gliomas, radiation necrosis and post treatment changes such as pseudoprogression have become a more relevant clinical problem for neurosurgeons and neurooncologists. Due to their radiological similarity to tumor progression, accurate recognition of these findings remains paramount given their vastly different treatment regimens and prognoses. However, no consensus has been reached on the optimal technique to discriminate between these two lesions.
In order to clarify the types of imaging modalities for recurrent enhancing lesions, we conducted a systematic review of case reports, case series, and prospective studies to increase our current understanding of the imaging options for these common lesions and their efficacy. In particular, we were interested in distinguishing radiation necrosis from true tumor progression. A PubMed search was performed to include all relevant studies where the imaging was used to differentiate between radiation necrosis and recurrent gliomas with post-radiation enhancing lesions.
After screening for certain parameters in our study, seventeen articles with 435 patients were included in our analysis including 10 retrospective and 7 prospective studies. The average time from the end of radiation therapy to the onset of a recurrent enhancing lesion was 13.2 months. The most sensitive and specific imaging modality was SPECT with a sensitivity of 87.6 % and specificity of 97.8 %.
Based on our review, we conclude that certain imaging modalities may be preferred over other less sensitive/specific techniques. Overall, tests such as SPECT may be preferable in differentiating TP (tumor progression) from RN (radiation necrosis) due to its high specificity, while nonspecific imaging such as conventional MRI is not ideal.