Background: Cavernomas are rare in the brainstem and account for 18-35% of central nervous cavernomas and can cause recurrent hemorrhages, devastating neurological deficits and mortality.
Objectives: To summarize the experience of microsurgical treatment of brainstem cavernomas and to investigate curative effect of microsurgical treatment of brainstem cavernomas.
Materials and methods: A retrospective analysis clinical data of 37 patients with brainstem cavernomas seen between 2003 and 2007. The analysis included age distribution, hemorrhage rates, clinical presentation, location of the lesions, and preoperative and postoperative Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) scores. The surgical indications, the timing of surgery and the surgical techniques were also assessed.
Results: All the 37 patients received microsurgical resections, there was no surgery-related mortality. Histopathological examination confirmed the diagnosis of cavernoma. Postoperatively, 20 patients had functional improvement, 15 patients had no change in the neurological status, and two patients deteriorated. Early surgery was associated with better outcomes. Mean followed up period was 21.5 months (range 6-36 months). During the follow-up 20 patients had resumed activities of daily living (KPS scores of 90-100), 10 patients were able to self-care with some efforts (KPS scores of 70-80), five patients needed considerable assistance (KPS score of 50-60) and two patients suffered hemiparesis (KPS scores of 40). None of the patient had recurrent hemorrhage.
Conclusions: Brainstem cavernomas can safely be resected. Successful resection of brainstem cavernomas can be achieved by optimal surgical approaches, feasible entry zone and meticulous microsurgical techniques. The goal of surgical intervention should be the total resection of the lesion without any deteriorative in the neurological deficits.