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Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences 2015 September;59(3):295-306


language: English

Radiosurgery for cerebral cavernomas

Nagy G. 1, Kemeny A. A. 2

1 Department of Functional Neurosurgery, National Institute of Clinical Neurosciences, Budapest, Hungary; 2 Thornbury Radiosurgery Centre, Sheffield, UK


The role of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) in the management of cerebral cavernomas (CCMs) remains controversial. However, during the last decade the increasing knowledge on natural history and numerous publications from SRS centers using modern treatment protocols has been changing the initial resistance of the neurosurgical community. Unfortunately, the quality of publications on CCM SRS remains heterogeneous. Controversies arise from the lack of control groups, the different definition of hemorrhage, heterogeneous patient populations, and poor definition of treatment protocols. The key for proper interpretation of results is the understanding of the natural history of CCMs, which is varied both according to anatomical location and the presence or absence of previous hemorrhage. Hemispheric lesions appear to be more benign with lower annual bleed rate and risk of persisting disability, whereas those found in the thalamus, basal ganglia and brainstem typically have higher rebleed risk resulting in higher cumulative morbidity following subsequent hemorrhages. However, we are still unable at presentation to predict the future behavior of an individual lesion. In the present paper we critically review and analyze the modern SRS literature on CCMs. The expanding number of available data with current treatment protocols strongly supports the initial intuition that SRS is an effective treatment alternative for deep-seated CCMs with multiple hemorrhages reducing pretreatment annual rebleed rates from 32% pre-treatment to 1.5% within 2 years after treatment (N.=197). Moreover, it appears to stabilize lesions with no more than one bleed, and it is also effective for CCMs causing therapy resistant epilepsy especially if applied within 3 years after presentation. In modern SRS series the rate of persisting adverse radiation effects is low, resulting only in mild morbidity even in deep-seated lesions (4.16%, N.=376), and morbidity caused by post-treatment hemorrhages is also low (5.3%, N.=132). Admittedly, there is no high quality evidence to define the relative roles of microsurgery, SRS and wait-and-see policy in the management of detected CCMs at present. However, based on increasing positive experience, we recommend early SRS soon after presentation in neurologically intact or minimally disabled patients harboring deep-seated CCMs, because waiting for the cumulative morbidity of the natural history to justify an otherwise low-risk intervention does not serve the patient well.

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