A taxonomy for brainstem cavernous malformations: subtypes of pontine lesions. Part 1: basilar, peritrigeminal, and middle peduncular

J Neurosurg 137:1462–1476, 2022

Brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs) are complex, difficult to access, and highly variable in size, shape, and position. The authors have proposed a novel taxonomy for pontine cavernous malformations (CMs) based upon clinical presentation (syndromes) and anatomical location (findings on MRI).

METHODS The proposed taxonomy was applied to a 30-year (1990–2019), 2-surgeon experience. Of 601 patients who underwent microsurgical resection of BSCMs, 551 with appropriate data were classified on the basis of BSCM location: midbrain (151 [27%]), pons (323 [59%]), and medulla (77 [14%]). Pontine lesions were then subtyped on the basis of their predominant surface presentation identified on preoperative MRI. Neurological outcomes were assessed according to the modified Rankin Scale, with a score ≤ 2 defined as favorable.

RESULTS The 323 pontine BSCMs were classified into 6 distinct subtypes: basilar (6 [1.9%]), peritrigeminal (53 [16.4%]), middle peduncular (MP) (100 [31.0%]), inferior peduncular (47 [14.6%]), rhomboid (80 [24.8%]), and supraolivary (37 [11.5%]). Part 1 of this 2-part series describes the taxonomic basis for the first 3 of these 6 subtypes of pontine CM. Basilar lesions are located in the anteromedial pons and associated with contralateral hemiparesis. Peritrigeminal lesions are located in the anterolateral pons and are associated with hemiparesis and sensory changes. Patients with MP lesions presented with mild anterior inferior cerebellar artery syndrome with contralateral hemisensory loss, ipsilateral ataxia, and ipsilateral facial numbness without cranial neuropathies. A single surgical approach and strategy were preferred for each subtype: for basilar lesions, the pterional craniotomy and anterior transpetrous approach was preferred; for peritrigeminal lesions, extended retrosigmoid craniotomy and transcerebellopontine angle approach; and for MP lesions, extended retrosigmoid craniotomy and trans–middle cerebellar peduncle approach. Favorable outcomes were observed in 123 of 143 (86%) patients with follow-up data. There were no significant differences in outcomes between the 3 subtypes or any other subtypes.

CONCLUSIONS The neurological symptoms and key localizing signs associated with a hemorrhagic pontine subtype can help to define that subtype clinically. The proposed taxonomy for pontine CMs meaningfully guides surgical strategy and may improve patient outcomes.

Efficacy and safety of the endoscopic “wet‑field” technique for removal of supratentorial cavernous malformations

Acta Neurochirurgica (2022) 164:2587–2594

Cerebral cavernous malformations (CMs) presenting with focal neurological symptoms or mass effects require surgical removal. In recent years, cylindrical retractors have been widely utilized for the removal of deep-seated lesions during both microscopic and endoscopic surgery. In the present study, we evaluated the efficacy and safety of endoscopic transcylinder removal of CMs using a novel wet-field technique.

Methods We included 13 patients with supratentorial CMs who had undergone endoscopic transcylinder surgery between April 2013 and March 2022. One patient experienced recurrence of the CM and underwent a second endoscopic transcylinder surgery. Therefore, we retrospectively evaluated 14 procedures. The surgical field was continuously irrigated with artificial cerebrospinal fluid to maintain expansion and visualization of the tumor bed. We termed this method as the “wet-field technique.” Patient characteristics, symptoms, and pre- and postoperative magnetic resonance imaging results were obtained from medical records.

Results The average maximum CM diameter was 35.3 mm (range: 10–65 mm). Cylinder diameters were 6 mm in eight procedures, 10 mm in four procedures, and 17 mm in one procedure. Wet-field technique was applied in all cases. The endoscope provided a bright field of view even under water. Continuous water irrigation made it easier to observe the entire tumor bed which naturally expanded by water pressure. Gross total resection was achieved in 13 procedures, while subtotal resection was achieved in one procedure. No surgical complications were observed.

Conclusions The endoscopic transcylinder removal using wet-field technique is safe and effective for the removal of symptomatic intracranial supratentorial CMs.

A taxonomy for brainstem cavernous malformations: subtypes of midbrain lesions

J Neurosurg 136:1667–1686, 2022

Anatomical taxonomy is a practical tool that has successfully guided clinical decision-making for patients with brain arteriovenous malformations. Brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs) are similarly complex lesions that are difficult to access and highly variable in size, shape, and position. The authors propose a novel taxonomy for midbrain cavernous malformations based on clinical presentation (syndromes) and anatomical location (identified with MRI).

METHODS The taxonomy system was developed and applied to an extensive 2-surgeon experience over a 30-year period (1990–2019). Of 551 patients with appropriate data who underwent microsurgical resection of BSCMs, 151 (27.4%) had midbrain lesions. These lesions were further subtyped on the basis of predominant surface presentation identified on preoperative MRI. Five distinct subtypes of midbrain BSCMs were defined: interpeduncular (7 lesions [4.6%]), peduncular (37 [24.5%]), tegmental (73 [48.3%]), quadrigeminal (27 [17.9%]), and periaqueductal (7 [4.6%]). Neurological outcomes were assessed using modified Rankin Scale (mRS) scores. A postoperative score ≤ 2 was defined as a favorable outcome; a score > 2 was defined as a poor outcome. Clinical and surgical characteristics and neurological outcomes were compared among subtypes.

RESULTS Each midbrain BSCM subtype was associated with a recognizable constellation of neurological symptoms. Patients with interpeduncular lesions commonly presented with ipsilateral oculomotor nerve palsy and contralateral cerebellar ataxia or dyscoordination. Peduncular lesions were associated with contralateral hemiparesis and ipsilateral oculomotor nerve palsy. Patients with tegmental lesions were the most likely to present with contralateral sensory deficits, whereas those with quadrigeminal lesions commonly presented with the features of Parinaud syndrome. Periaqueductal lesions were the most likely to cause obstructive hydrocephalus. A single surgical approach was preferred (> 90% of cases) for each midbrain subtype: interpeduncular (transsylvian-interpeduncular approach [7/7 lesions]), peduncular (transsylvian-transpeduncular [24/37]), tegmental (lateral supracerebellar-infratentorial [73/73]), quadrigeminal (midline or paramedian supracerebellar-infratentorial [27/27]), and periaqueductal (transcallosal-transchoroidal fissure [6/7]). Favorable outcomes (mRS score ≤ 2) were observed in most patients (110/136 [80.9%]) with follow-up data. No significant differences in outcomes were observed between subtypes (p = 0.92).

CONCLUSIONS The study confirmed the authors’ hypothesis that taxonomy for midbrain BSCMs can meaningfully guide the selection of surgical approach and resection strategy. The proposed taxonomy can increase diagnostic acumen at the patient bedside, help identify optimal surgical approaches, enhance the consistency of clinical communications and publications, and improve patient outcomes.



Atorvastatin Treatment of Cavernous Angiomas with Symptomatic Hemorrhage Exploratory Proof of Concept (AT CASH EPOC) Trial

Neurosurgery 2019 Dec 1;85(6):843-853

More than a million Americans harbor a cerebral cavernous angioma (CA), and those who suffer a prior symptomatic hemorrhage have an exceptionally high rebleeding risk. Preclinical studies show that atorvastatin blunts CA lesion development and hemorrhage through inhibiting RhoA kinase (ROCK), suggesting it may confer a therapeutic benefit.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether atorvastatin produces a difference compared to placebo in lesional iron deposition as assessed by quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) on magnetic resonance imaging in CAs that have demonstrated a symptomatic hemorrhage in the prior year. Secondary aims shall assess effects on vascular permeability, ROCKactivity in peripheral leukocytes, signal effects on clinical outcomes, adverse events, and prespecified subgroups.

METHODS: The phase I/IIa placebo-controlled, double-blinded, single-site clinical trial aims to enroll 80 subjects randomized 1-1 to atorvastatin (starting dose 80 mg PO daily) or placebo. Dosing shall continue for 24-mo or until reaching a safety endpoint.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES: The trial is powered to detect an absolute difference of 20% in the mean percent change in lesional QSM per year (2-tailed, power 0.9, alpha 0.05). A decrease in QSM change would be a signal of potential benefit, and an increase would signal a safety concern with the drug.

DISCUSSION: With firm mechanistic rationale, rigorous preclinical discoveries, and biomarker validations, the trial shall explore a proof of concept effect of a widely used repurposed drug in stabilizing CAs after a symptomatic hemorrhage. This will be the first clinical trial of a drug aimed at altering rebleeding in CA.

Long-term natural history of incidentally discovered cavernous malformations in a single-center cohort


J Neurosurg 120:1188–1192, 2014

The aim of this study was to determine the prospective hemorrhage rate in a group of retrospectively identified patients in whom symptoms had an unclear relationship to an intracerebral cavernous malformation (ICM) or the malformation itself was an incidental finding.

Methods. Patients with incidentally discovered ICMs diagnosed between 1989 and 1999 were identified from a previously published cohort. Those with ICMs having an unclear relationship with existing symptoms were also eligible for analysis. Updated clinical and radiographic data pertaining to symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage related to the ICM or new seizures were obtained through medical chart review and mail survey. In select patients, phone calls were made and death certificates were obtained when possible. The prospective hemorrhage rate was calculated as the number of prospective hemorrhages divided by the number of patient-years of follow-up.

Results. There were 1311 patient-years of follow-up among the 107 patients (49.5% male; mean age at diagnosis 52 years) eligible for this study. Forty-four patients died in the follow-up period, and the cause of death could be determined in 34 (77%). Two patients had a prospective hemorrhage, which was definitively related to the ICM in only one. Thus, the definitive prospective bleed rate was 0.08% per patient-year. No new seizures developed in any of the patients during the follow-up period.

Conclusions. The risk of prospective hemorrhage in patients presenting asymptomatically with ICM is very low. This information can be useful in managing such patients and may be most applicable to those with a single ICM.

Awake mapping for resection of cavernous angioma and surrounding gliosis in the left dominant hemisphere

Awake mapping for resection of cavernous angioma and surrounding gliosis in the left dominant hemisphere

J Neurosurg 117:1076–1081, 2012

Maximal resection of symptomatic cavernous angioma (CA), including its surrounding gliosis if possible, has been recommended to minimize the risk of seizures or (re)bleeding. However, despite recent neurosurgical advances, such extensive CA removal is still a challenge in eloquent areas. The authors report a consecutive series of patients who underwent awake surgery for CA within the left dominant hemisphere in which intraoperative cortical– subcortical electrical stimulation was used.

Methods. Nine patients harboring a CA that was revealed by seizures in 6 cases and bleeding in 3 cases underwent resection. All CAs were located in the left dominant hemisphere: 3 temporal, 2 insular, 2 parietal, and 2 in the parietotemporal region. Awake mapping was performed in all cases by using intraoperative cortical–subcortical electrical stimulation and ultrasonography (except in 1 insular CA in which a neuronavigation system was used).

Results. Total removal of the CA was achieved in all patients, with identification and preservation of language and sensory-motor structures. In addition, the pericavernomatous gliosis was removed in 7 cases, according to the functional boundaries provided by intraoperative subcortical stimulation. In 2 cases, subcortical mapping revealed eloquent areas within the surrounding gliosis, which was voluntarily avoided. There was no postsurgical permanent deficit, no rebleeding, and no epilepsy in 7 cases (2 patients had rare seizures in the 1st year or two after surgery, and then complete arrest), with a mean follow-up of 28.5 months (range 3–64 months).

Conclusions. These results suggest that intraoperative cortical–subcortical stimulation in awake patients represents a valuable adjunct to image-guided surgery with the aim of selecting the safer surgical approach for CAs involving eloquent areas. Moreover, such online mapping can be helpful when removing the pericavernomatous gliosis while preserving functional structures, which can persist within the hemosiderin rim. Thus, the authors propose that awake surgery be routinely considered, both to optimize the resection and to improve the quality of life through seizure control and avoidance of (re)bleeding for CAs located in the left dominant hemisphere.

An analysis of flow dynamics in cerebral cavernous malformation and orbital cavernous angioma using indocyanine green videoangiography

Acta Neurochir (2012) 154:1169–1175 DOI 10.1007/s00701-012-1354-9

Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are known to be vascular anomalies with low perfusion because of being angiographically occult. We attempted direct visualization of blood flow within CCMs and orbital cavernous angiomas (CAs), and analyzed flow dynamics using indocyanine green videoangiography (ICG-VAG).

Methods This series included seven CCMs and two orbital CAs. ICG-VAG was performed to visualize blood flow of the lesions before resection. Time to peak of staining was evaluated by reviewing recorded ICG-VAG.

Results In five of seven CCMs, stain was identified. CCMs were seen as avascular areas in both arterial and venous phases, and were stained gradually. Stain was maximized late after venous phase. The orbital CAs were also stained lately, but more intensely than CCMs.

Conclusions The present study directly demonstrated slow and low perfusion within CCM and orbital CA using ICGVAG. On the basis of characteristic flow dynamics of CCMs, intraoperative ICG-VAG provides useful information in microsurgical resection.

Predictors of seizure freedom in the surgical treatment of supratentorial cavernous malformations

J Neurosurg 115:1169–1174, 2011. DOI: 10.3171/2011.7.JNS11536

Seizures are the most common presenting symptom of supratentorial cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) and progress to medically refractory epilepsy in 40% of patients. Predictors of seizure freedom in the resection of CCMs are incompletely understood.

Methods. The authors systematically reviewed the published literature on seizure freedom following the resection of supratentorial CCMs in patients presenting with seizures. Seizure outcomes were stratified across 12 potential prognostic variables. A total of 1226 patients with supratentorial CCMs causing seizures were identified across 31 predominantly retrospective studies; 361 patients had medically refractory epilepsy.

Results. Seventy-five percent of the patients were seizure free after microsurgical lesion removal, whereas 25% continued to have seizures. All patients had had preoperative seizures and > 6 months of postoperative follow-up. Modifiable predictors of postoperative seizure freedom included gross-total resection (OR 36.6, 95% CI 8.5–157.5) and surgery within 1 year of symptom onset (OR 1.83, 95% CI 1.30–2.58). Additional prognostic indicators of a favorable outcome were a CCM size < 1.5 cm (OR 15.4, 95% CI 5.2–45.4), the absence of multiple CCMs (OR 2.02, 95% CI 1.13–3.60), medically controlled seizures (OR 2.38, 95% CI 1.29–4.39), and the lack of secondarily generalized seizures (OR 3.33, 95% CI 2.09–5.30). Other factors, including extended resection of the hemosiderin ring, were not significantly predictive.

Conclusions. In the surgical treatment of supratentorial CCMs, gross-total resection and early operative intervention may improve seizure outcome. While surgery should not be considered the first-line treatment for CCM-related epilepsy, it is important to understand the variables associated with seizure freedom in CCM resection given the considerable morbidity and diminished quality of life associated with epilepsy.

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