Updating a previous report, the authors offer a review of 45 patients between age 2 and 63 treated by direct surgical excision for brainstem tumours of various description. Since 1986 all candidate patients were examined by NMR imaging in addition to CT scanning, sometimes with the further addition of digital-subtraction vertebral angiography. By Epstein and McLeary's criteria, 24 of the tumours were focal, 12 were cervicomedullary and 9 were diffuse. The most frequent histological diagnosis was glioma (36 cases between low-grade astrocytoma, anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma); the balance was provided by cavernoma (6 cases), haemangioblastoma (2 cases), and lipoma (2 cases). Gross total resection was achieved in 28 patients, namely all those with ependymoma or vascular tumours and 14 of 17 with low-grade astrocytoma. Resection was subtotal in 16 cases and confined to a generous biopsy in one. There was no operative mortality, but 2 deaths occurred in the early postoperative period. At discharge, neurological status was unchanged or improved in 35 cases. At 3-month follow-up examination, 12 patients were improved, 27 were unchanged and 3 were worsened. By January 1990 (6 to 72 months postoperatively) 27 of the first 40 patients treated were alive: 13 had resumed normal life, 6 were self-sufficient and 8 were disabled. The authors conclude that present-day microsurgical resection of intra-axial brainstem tumours is associated with low mortality and morbidity and affords favourable results for which they credit high-quality NMR imaging, efficient microsurgery, adequate anesthesia, and competent postoperative intensive care.
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