Debulking or biopsy of malignant glioma in elderly people - a randomised study

Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2003 Jan;145(1):5-10. doi: 10.1007/s00701-002-1030-6.


Background: Patients with radiologically (MRI and/or CT images) suspected malignant glioma is referred to radiotherapy after craniotomy and resection of the tumour or after diagnostic biopsy. Patients with poor preoperative status and elderly patients are diagnosed more often by biopsy and treated by radiotherapy rather than by craniotomy and tumour resection. However, based on previous retrospective studies it is not possible to conclude which procedure is better for elderly patients. Thus a prospective study comparing these two procedures with elderly patients was planned.

Methods: 30 patients older than 65 years with radiologically (CT and/or MRI) obvious malignant glioma were randomised into two groups: I) stereotactic biopsy and II) open craniotomy and resection of the tumour. Nineteen patients were diagnosed to have grade IV glioma and four patients grade III glioma. Seven out of 30 (23%) were followed in the "intention-to-treat" group with diagnosis of stroke (n=3), metastasis (n=2), malignant lymphoma (n=1) and one with out histological diagnosis. Patients with histologically verified malignant glioma (grade III-IV) were diagnosed by stereotactic biopsy (n=13) or by open craniotomy and resection (n=10) and all the patients were referred to radiotherapy. Survival and time of deterioration were followed.

Findings: The overall median survival time was 146 (95% CI 89-175) days after the procedure. The estimated median survival time was 171 (95% CI 146-278) days after the craniotomy versus 85 (95% CI 55-157) days after the biopsy (p=0.035). The estimated survival time was 2.757 times longer (95% CI 1.004-7.568, p=0.049) after craniotomy. However, there was no significant difference in the time of deterioration between these two treatments (p=0.057). Amount of radiotherapy given had a significant effect on survival (p=0.001).

Interpretation: Longer survival time is achieved after open craniotomy and resection of tumour. However, overall benefit of open surgery to patient seems to be modest, while time of deterioration did not differ between two treatment groups. Our results support previous studies on the benefit of radiotherapy in the treatment of malignant glioma.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / mortality
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Craniotomy*
  • Female
  • Glioma / mortality
  • Glioma / pathology*
  • Glioma / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stereotaxic Techniques*
  • Survival Rate