Minimally Invasive Surgery of Deep-Seated Brain Lesions Using Tubular Retractors and Navigated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation-Based Diffusion Tensor Imaging Tractography Guidance: The Minefield Paradigm

Operative Neurosurgery 24:656–664, 2023

Surgical treatment of deep-seated brain lesions is a major challenge for neurosurgeons. Recently, tubular retractors have been used to help neurosurgeons in achieving the targeting and resection of deep lesions.

OBJECTIVE: To describe a novel surgical approach based on the combination of tubular retractors and preoperative mapping by navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (nTMS) and nTMS-based diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography for the safe resection of deep-seated lesions.

METHODS: Ten consecutive patients affected by deep-seated brain lesions close to eloquent motor/language/visual pathways underwent preoperative nTMS mapping of motor/language cortical areas and nTMS-based DTI tractography of adjacent eloquent white matter tracts, including optic radiations. The nTMS-based information was used to plan the optimal surgical trajectory and to guide the insertion of tubular retractors within the brain parenchyma without causing injury to the eloquent cortical and subcortical structures. After surgery, all patients underwent a new nTMS-based DTI tractography of fascicles close to the tumor to verify their structural integrity.

RESULTS: Gross total resection was achieved in 8 cases, subtotal resection in 1 case, and a biopsy in 1 case. No new postoperative deficits were observed, except in 1 case where a visual field defect due to injury to the optic radiations occurred. Postoperative nTMS-based DTI tractography showed the integrity of the subcortical fascicles crossed by tubular retractors trajectory in 9 cases.

CONCLUSION: The novel strategy combining tubular retractors with functional nTMS-based preoperative mapping enables a safe microsurgical resection of deep-seated lesions through the preservation of eloquent cortical areas and subcortical fascicles, thus reducing the risk of new permanent deficits.

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