Brainstem cavernoma surgery with the support of pre and postoperative diffusion tensor imaging

Brainstem cavernoma surgery

Neurosurg Rev (2014) 37:481–492

The spatial complexity of highly vulnerable structures makes surgical resection of brainstem cavernomas (BSC) a challenging procedure. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) allows for the visualization of white matter tracts and enables a better understanding of the anatomical location of corticospinal and sensory tracts before and after surgery.

We investigated the feasibility and clinical usefulness of DTI-based fiber tractography in patients with BSC.Pre- and postoperative DTI visualization of corticospinal and sensory tracts were retrospectively analyzed in 23 individuals with BSC. Preoperative and postoperative DTIfiber accuracy were associated to the neurological findings.

Preoperatively, the corticospinal tracts were visualized in 90%of the cases and the sensory tracts were visualized in 74 % of the cases. Postoperatively, the corticospinal tracts were visualized in 97 % of the cases and the sensory tracts could be visualized in 80 % of the cases. In all cases, the BSC had caused displacement, thinning, or interruption of the fiber tracts to various degrees. Tract visualization was associated with pre- and postoperative neurological findings. Postoperative damage of the corticospinal tracts was observed in two patients. On follow-up, the Patzold Rating (PR) improved in 19 out of 23 patients (83 %, p= 0.0002).

This study confirms that DTI tractography allows accurate and detailed white matter tract visualization in the brainstem, even when an intraaxial lesion affects this structure. Furthermore, visualizing the tracts adjacent to the lesion adds to our understanding of the distorted intrinsic brainstem anatomy and it may assists in planning the surgical approach in specific cases.