Transient postictal MRI changes in patients with brain tumors may mimic disease progression

Surg Neurol. 2007 Mar;67(3):246-50; discussion 250. doi: 10.1016/j.surneu.2006.04.015. Epub 2006 Nov 3.


Background: Transient postictal imaging abnormalities in patients with non-tumor-related seizures are well documented and include fluid-attenuated inversion recovery/T2 hyperintensity and parenchymal and meningeal contrast enhancement. In contrast, transient postictal imaging abnormalities in patients with tumor-related seizures have been poorly described. Fifty percent of patients with brain tumors have a seizure during the course of their illness and are often imaged after a seizure or after a change in seizure character or frequency. Interval changes on repeat imaging can mimic disease progression or other pathologic processes.

Methods: We describe 3 patients with brain tumors and transient postictal MRI changes that mimicked disease progression and infection.

Results: Our patients demonstrated fluid-attenuated inversion recovery/T2 hyperintensity and gadolinium enhancement on MRI studies performed shortly after ictal events. These changes were suspicious for tumor progression in 2 cases and for recurrent infection in the third. Control of seizure activity resulted in resolution of these changes on scans obtained 10 to 21 days later.

Conclusions: Imaging shortly after an ictal event can potentially mislead the clinician to interpret changes as tumor or pathologic progression. Unnecessary intervention in these patients with new and suspicious imaging findings should be avoided. We recommend repeat imaging be performed in patients with brain tumors and seizures several weeks after seizure control if clinically feasible. Further research is needed to delineate the time course of seizure-induced MRI changes.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Astrocytoma / complications*
  • Astrocytoma / pathology*
  • Astrocytoma / therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / complications*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Glioma / complications*
  • Glioma / pathology*
  • Glioma / therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Meningeal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Meningeal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Meningeal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Meningioma / complications*
  • Meningioma / pathology*
  • Meningioma / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Seizures / diagnosis*
  • Seizures / etiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome