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Radiol Med. 2007 Sep;112(6):906-920. Epub 2007 Sep 20.

Role of magnetic resonance tractography in the preoperative planning and intraoperative assessment of patients with intra-axial brain tumours.

[Article in English, Italian]

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  • 1Cattedra di Neuroradiologia, Universit√† La Sapienza, Via di Grottarossa 1035, Rome, Italy.



This study was conducted to assess the possibility of identifying precise white matter tracts situated in proximity to intracranial tumours, to define the anatomical and topographical relations between the same white matter tracts and the tumour, to verify the possibility of integrating tractographic images in the context of a package of three-dimensional anatomical images to send to the neuronavigation system, to assess the impact of this information on surgical planning, and to analyse, both pre-and postoperatively, the patient's clinical conditions as an index of the functional integrity of the fibres themselves.


Twenty-five patients underwent diffusion tensor study prior to neurosurgery. With the use of dedicated software, relative colour maps were obtained and the trajectories of the white matter tracts adjacent to the tumour were reconstructed in three dimensions. These were then processed for preoperative planning. Planning, which was performed with the neuronavigator, was based on analysis of the location of the course of the main white matter tracts adjacent to the lesion (pyramidal tract, optic radiation and arcuate fasciculus). Two neurosurgeons were asked whether the tractography images had modified the access and/or intraoperative approach to the tumour. All patients were clinically assessed both pre-and postoperatively 1 month after the procedure to define the presence of symptoms related to the involvement of the white matter tracts studied and therefore to assess the integrity of the fibres after the operation.


In one patient, the tumour was situated away from all the tracts studied and did not compress them in any way. Overall, 40/75 tracts studied had no anatomical relation with the tumour, were not displaced by the tumour or could not be visualised in their entire course. Analysis of the remaining 35 white matter tracts led to an a priori change in the surgical approach for corticotomy in four patients (16%), with no disagreement between the two neurosurgeons and an impact on the extent of resection during surgery in 17 (68%), thus an overall impact on the surgical procedure in 80% of cases. Eight patients showed no symptoms related to the involvement of the white matter tracts studied. In the remaining 17 patients, the symptoms were related to involvement of the pyramidal tract, arcuate fasciculus or optic radiation. At 1-month follow-up, one previously asymptomatic patient reported a speech disorder (transcortical sensory dysphasia); in the remaining 24, symptoms remained unchanged, with a tendency to improvement in 14/17 with symptoms related to involvement of white matter tracts studied.


Magnetic resonance (MR) tractography offers the neurosurgeon an anatomical panoramic view that can improve surgical planning for the resection of intracranial tumours. Despite the high incidence of cases in which the lesion is responsible for changes that hinder the reconstruction of white matter tracts, the technique can change the surgical approach for corticotomy, defines the extent of resection and leads to some change in the procedure in 80% of cases. The improvement of pre-existing symptoms and the absence of new symptoms in the postoperative phase, in our opinion, confirms the value of the technique.

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