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Br J Neurosurg. 2013 Oct;27(5):654-7. doi: 10.3109/02688697.2013.771729. Epub 2013 Mar 5.

Effectiveness and outcomes of surgery for cerebral metastases.

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School of Medicine, University of Southampton, UK.



The main treatment modalities for single brain metastases are whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT), surgery and stereotactic radiosurgery. Current guidelines recommend complete surgical excision for single cerebral metastases and two randomised controlled trials (RCT) have also found survival benefit of surgery. However, a more recent RCT and a Cochrane review have challenged the effectiveness of surgery for cerebral metastases. This study aims to assess the effectiveness of surgery for cerebral metastases in current practice.


A retrospective review was performed for a single surgeon series of consecutive patients undergoing primary surgery for cerebral metastases between June 2005 and April 2010. The main outcome measure was the survival time after surgery.


One hundred and twenty three patients (61 males, 62 females) were identified with a mean age of 58.4 years. Eighty three patients (67%) were under 65 years. The overall 30-day mortality rate was 2.4%. The overall median survival was 10 months. There were 26 (21%) breast cancers with median survival of 13.5 months, 32 (26%) NSCLC with 8.3 months, 24 (19%) melanomas with 6.7 months, 13 (11%) colorectal cancers with 6.4 months, and 11 (9%) renal cell cancers with 13.6 months. The differences were not significant (p > 0.05). However, when the breast cancer group was compared to the NSCLC group, the difference was significant (p = 0.005). The median survival differences were not significant (p > 0.05) with regard to the RPA class, the site (supratentorial or infratentorial) and the number of metastases (single or two).


Median survival in this cohort was identical to those in the two RCTs that showed survival benefits from surgery. This was significantly longer than that (5.6 months) in the single series demonstrating no benefit. Therefore, our results support the previous evidence of improved outcomes with surgery.

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