Safety of brainstem safe entry zones: comparison of microsurgical outcomes associated with superficial, exophytic, and deep brainstem cavernous malformations

J Neurosurg 139:113–123, 2023

Safe entry zones (SEZs) enable safe tissue transgression to lesions beneath the brainstem surface. However, evidence for the safety of SEZs is scarce and is based on anatomical studies, case reports, and small series.

METHODS A cohort of 154 patients who underwent microsurgical brainstem cavernous malformation (BSCM) treatment during a 23-year period and who had preoperative MR images and intraoperative photographs or videos was retrospectively examined. This study assessed the safety of SEZs for access to deep BSCMs, preoperative MRI to predict BSCM surface proximity, and the relationships between BSCM subtype, surgical approach, and SEZs. Lesions were characterized as exophytic, superficial, or deep on the basis of preoperative MRI and intraoperative inspection. Outcomes were scored as good (modified Rankin Scale [mRS] score ≤ 2) or poor (mRS score > 2) and relative outcomes as stable/ improved or worse relative to baseline (± 1 point).

RESULTS Resections included 34 (22%) in the midbrain, 102 (66%) in the pons, and 18 (12%) in the medulla. Of those, 23 (15%) were exophytic, 57 (37%) were superficial, and 74 (48%) were deep. Established SEZs were used for 97% (n = 72) of deep lesions; the preferred SEZ associated with its subtype was used for 91% (n = 67). MR images accurately depicted exophytic BSCMs that did not require SEZ approaches (sensitivity, 96%) but overestimated the proximity of lesions superficial to brainstem surfaces (specificity, 67%), resulting in unanticipated SEZ use. Final neurological outcomes were good in 80% of patients with follow-up data (119/149), and relative outcomes were stable/improved in 93% (139/149). Outcomes for patients with brainstem transgression through an SEZ did not differ from outcomes for patients with superficial or exophytic lesions that did not require SEZ use (final mRS score ≤ 2 in 72% of all patients with deep lesions vs 82% of all patients with superficial or exophytic lesions [p = 0.10]). Among patients with follow-up, the rates of permanent new cranial nerve deficits in patients with deep BSCMs and superficial or exophytic BSCMs were 21% and 20%, respectively (p = 0.81), with no significant change in overall cranial nerve deficit (0 and −1, p = 0.65).

CONCLUSIONS Neurological outcomes for patients with deep BSCMs were equivalent to those for superficial or exophytic BSCMs, validating the safety of SEZs for deep BSCMs. Preoperative T1-weighted MR images overestimated the lesion’s surface proximity, necessitating detailed knowledge of SEZs and readiness to use them in cases of radiologicalmicrosurgical discordance. Most patients achieved favorable outcomes despite the transgression of eloquent brainstem tissue in and around SEZs.

Resection of primary motor cortex tumors

J Neurosurg 129:961–972, 2018

Brain tumors involving the primary motor cortex are often deemed unresectable due to the potential neurological consequences that result from injury to this region. Nevertheless, we have challenged this dogma for many years and used asleep, as well as awake, intraoperative stimulation mapping to maximize extent of resection. It remains unclear whether these tumors can be resected with acceptable morbidity, whether performing the surgery with the patient awake or asleep impacts extent of resection, and how stimulation mapping influences outcomes.

METHODS A retrospective chart review was performed on the senior author’s cohort to identify patients treated between 1998 and 2016 who underwent resection of tumors that were located within the primary motor cortex. Clinical notes, operative reports, and radiographic images were reviewed to identify intraoperative stimulation mapping findings and functional outcomes following tumor resection. Extent of resection was quantified volumetrically. Characteristics of patients were analyzed to identify factors associated with postoperative motor deficits.

RESULTS Forty-nine patients underwent 53 resections of tumors located primarily within the motor cortex. Stimulation mapping was performed in all cases. Positive cortical sites for motor response were identified in 91% of cases, and subcortical sites in 74%. Awake craniotomy was performed in 65% of cases, while 35% were done under general anesthesia. The mean extent of resection was 91%. There was no statistically significant difference in extent of resection in cases done awake compared with those done under general anesthesia. New or worsened postoperative motor deficits occurred in 32 patients (60%), and 20 patients (38%) had a permanent deficit. Of the permanent deficits, 14 were mild, 4 were moderate, and 2 were severe (3.8% of cases). Decreased intraoperative motor response and diffusion restriction on postoperative MRI were associated with permanent deficit. Awake motor mapping surgery was associated with increased diffusion signal on postoperative MRI.

CONCLUSIONS Resection of tumors from the primary motor cortex is associated with an increased risk of motor deficit, but most of these deficits are transient or mild and have little functional impact. Excellent extent of resection can be achieved with intraoperative stimulation mapping, suggesting that these tumors are indeed amenable to resection and should not be labeled unresectable. Injury to small perforating or en passage blood vessels was the most common cause of infarction that led to moderate or severe deficits. Awake motor mapping was not superior to mapping done under general anesthesia with regard to long-term functional outcome.