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Asian J Neurosurg. 2019 Jan-Mar;14(1):15-27. doi: 10.4103/ajns.AJNS_158_18.

Timing of Surgery and Surgical Strategies in Symptomatic Brainstem Cavernomas: Review of the Literature.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Science, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.
Department of Neurosurgery, Fujita Health University, Banbuntane Hotokukai Hospital, Nagoya, Japan.
Department of Neurosurgery, Aayush Hospital, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India.
Department of Neurosurgery, Sungai Buloh Hospital, Selangor, Malaysia.


Brainstem cavernomas (BSCs) are angiographically occult, benign low flow vascular malformations that pose a significant surgical challenge due to their eloquent location. The present study includes an extensive review of the literature and three illustrative cases of BSC with emphasis on the timing of surgery: surgical approaches, usage of intraoperative monitoring, and complication avoidance. A systematic search was performed using the PubMed database was from January 1, 1999, to June 2018. The relevant articles were reviewed with particular attention to hemorrhage rates, timing of surgery, indications for surgery, surgical approaches, and outcome. Along with this, a retrospective analysis of three cases of symptomatic BSC, who were operated for the same, during the year 2018 in our institute was conducted. All the three patients presented with at least 1 episode of hemorrhage before surgery. Of these, one patient was operated immediately due to altered sensorium whereas the other two were operated after at least 4 weeks of the hemorrhagic episode. The patients who were operated in the subacute phase of bleed were seen to have liquefaction of hematoma, thus providing a good surgical demarcation and thereby reduced surgery-related trauma to the surrounding eloquent structures. Two patients improved neurologically during the immediate postoperative period, whereas one had transient worsening of neurological deficits during the immediate postoperative period in the form of additional cranial nerve palsies which completely improved on follow-up after 2 months. Radical resection is recommended in all patients with symptomatic BSCs. Surgery should be considered after the first or the second episode of hemorrhage as multiple rebleeds can cause exacerbation of deficits and sometimes mortality as well. Considering surgical timing, anywhere between 4 and 6 weeks or the subacute phase of the hemorrhage is considered appropriate. The aims of surgical intervention must be to improve preoperative function, minimize surgical morbidity and to reduce hemorrhagic rates. In spite of the significant surgical morbidity associated with BSCs, appropriate patient selection, meticulous surgical planning with adjuncts such as intraoperative monitoring and neuronavigation will go a long way in avoidance of major postoperative complications.


Brainstem cavernomas; microsurgery; safe entry zones; surgical approaches

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