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Neurosurgery. 2011 Jun;68(2 Suppl Operative):282-90; discussion 290. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e318212464e.

Intraoperative confocal microscopy for brain tumors: a feasibility analysis in humans.

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  • 1Department of Neurological Surgery, Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, 350 West Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ 85013, USA.



The ability to diagnose brain tumors intraoperatively and identify tumor margins during resection could maximize resection and minimize morbidity. Advances in optical imaging enabled production of a handheld intraoperative confocal microscope.


To present a feasibility analysis of the intraoperative confocal microscope for brain tumor resection.


Thirty-three patients with brain tumor treated at Barrow Neurological Institute were examined. All patients received an intravenous bolus of sodium fluorescein before confocal imaging with the Optiscan FIVE 1 system probe. Optical biopsies were obtained within each tumor and along the tumor-brain interfaces. Corresponding pathologic specimens were then excised and processed. These data was compared by a neuropathologist to identify the concordance for tumor histology, grade, and margins.


Thirty-one of 33 lesions were tumors (93.9%) and 2 cases were identified as radiation necrosis (6.1%). Of the former, 25 (80.6%) were intra-axial and 6 (19.4%) were extra-axial. Intra-axial tumors were most commonly gliomas and metastases, while all extra-axial tumors were meningiomas. Among high-grade gliomas, vascular neoproliferation, as well as tumor margins, were identifiable using confocal imaging. Meningothelial and fibrous meningiomas were distinct on confocal microscopy--the latter featured spindle-shaped cells distinguishable from adjacent parenchyma. Other tumor histologies correlated well with standard neuropathology tissue preparations.


Intraoperative confocal microscopy is a practicable technology for the resection of human brain tumors. Preliminary analysis demonstrates reliability for a variety of lesions in identifying tumor cells and the tumor-brain interface. Further refinement of this technology depends upon the approval of tumor-specific fluorescent contrast agents for human use.

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