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Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Jul;39(7):2777-2785. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24039. Epub 2018 Mar 12.

Presurgical language fMRI: Clinical practices and patient outcomes in epilepsy surgical planning.

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Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Ave, New Haven, CT, USA.
Quinnipiac University School of Medicine, 370 Bassett Rd, North Haven, CT, USA.
Northwell Health, Great Neck, NY, USA.
University of Bonn, Regina-Pacis-Weg 3, Bonn, Germany.
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Via Università, 4, Modena, MO, Italy.
Boston Children's Hospital, 360 Longwood Avenue Boston, MA, USA.
The University of Queensland, St. Lucia QLD, Australia.
University of California Los Angeles, Westwood Plaza, CA, USA.


The goal of this study was to document current clinical practice and report patient outcomes in presurgical language functional MRI (fMRI) for epilepsy surgery. Epilepsy surgical programs worldwide were surveyed as to the utility, implementation, and efficacy of language fMRI in the clinic; 82 programs responded. Respondents were predominantly US (61%) academic programs (85%), and evaluated adults (44%), adults and children (40%), or children only (16%). Nearly all (96%) reported using language fMRI. Surprisingly, fMRI is used to guide surgical margins (44% of programs) as well as lateralize language (100%). Sites using fMRI for localization most often use a distance margin around activation of 10mm. While considered useful, 56% of programs reported at least one instance of disagreement with other measures. Direct brain stimulation typically confirmed fMRI findings (74%) when guiding margins, but instances of unpredicted decline were reported by 17% of programs and 54% reported unexpected preservation of function. Programs reporting unexpected decline did not clearly differ from those which did not. Clinicians using fMRI to guide surgical margins do not typically map known language-critical areas beyond Broca's and Wernicke's. This initial data shows many clinical teams are confident using fMRI not only for language lateralization but also to guide surgical margins. Reported cases of unexpected language preservation when fMRI activation is resected, and cases of language decline when it is not, emphasize a critical need for further validation. Comprehensive studies comparing commonly-used fMRI paradigms to predict stimulation mapping and post-surgical language decline remain of high importance.


epilepsy; fMRI; language; presurgical

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