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Childs Nerv Syst. 2013 Aug;29(8):1313-9. doi: 10.1007/s00381-013-2101-0. Epub 2013 May 11.

Feasibility, safety, and indications for surgical biopsy of intrinsic brainstem tumors in children.

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Department of Neurological Surgery, Pediatric Neurosurgery, University of California, San Francisco, 505 Parnassus Ave, Room M779, San Francisco, CA 94143-0112, USA.



Diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPGs) are rapidly progressive and aggressive tumors that usually arise in children. Their anatomic location makes gross total surgical resection impossible, and fewer than 10% of patients survive more than 2 years after diagnosis. Often, these lesions are treated based on imaging characteristics alone. However, despite aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments available, prognosis remains poor. There is therefore a need for new therapies directed by biologic profiling. This necessitates a tissue diagnosis and, therefore, surgical biopsy. We have reviewed the results of biopsy for DIPGs in children at a single institution and compared our results to those available in the literature to elucidate the utility of biopsy for DIPGs.


A historical cohort study was performed using medical records of patients under the age of 18 who underwent surgical biopsy of a DIPG at a single institution.


Nine patients were included, four males and five females. Age at presentation ranged from 8 months to 10 years (average 5.7 years). Pathologic diagnoses included five high grade (WHO grade III or IV) gliomas and four low grade (WHO grade II) astrocytomas. There were no intraoperative complications, and only one patient developed a new postoperative neurologic deficit.


Stereotactic biopsy of DIPGs is essential to obtain a pathologic diagnosis and is associated with low morbidity. This technique is important to elucidate biological characteristics of these tumors in order to direct multidisciplinary treatment plans possibly involving chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other future clinical trial interventions for children with DIPGs.

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