Object: Stereotactic biopsy is a safe and effective technique for the diagnosis of brain tumors. The use of intraoperative neuropathological examination has been routinely advocated to increase diagnostic yield, but the procedure lengthens surgical time, may produce false-negative and -positive results, and current biopsy techniques have a very low nondiagnostic rate. Therefore, the authors questioned the need for intraoperative histological evaluation.
Methods: The authors prospectively studied all patients undergoing image-guided biopsy under the care of a single surgeon (P.L.G.) between July 2005 and October 2007. A Stryker neuronavigation system with a trajectory guide was used to plan a single trajectory, and, using a side-cutting biopsy cannula, multiple biopsy samples were taken from between 1 and 4 sites within the tumor. Tissue was inspected macroscopically by the surgeon and was only submitted for neuropathological assessment postoperatively.
Results: One hundred thirty-four biopsies were performed during the study. A positive diagnosis was established in 133 cases (99.3%). One biopsy was negative (0.7%) and postoperative imaging (performed because the tissue was macroscopically normal) demonstrated inaccurate targeting of the lesion. Significant complications were seen in 3 patients (2.2%) who all had preoperative WHO performance scores of III or IV. Two patients suffered delayed deterioration and died due to probable surgical complications--one with thalamic glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and one with gliomatosis cerebri. One patient with GBM suffered an intracerebral hematoma that was managed conservatively. Postoperative seizures were seen in 4 patients (3%), and 2 patients (1.5%) experienced a transient neurological deficit. Histological diagnosis showed a GBM in 64 cases, Grade III glioma in 19, Grade I or II in 23, metastasis in 10, lymphoma in 13, and other disease in 4. There were 32 patients discharged to home on the same day as surgery. Compared with the authors' previous retrospective audit into 127 biopsies, this technique showed improved diagnostic yield (99.3 vs 94.5%, p = 0.032) with fewer complications (2.2 vs 4.7% [not statistically significant]).
Conclusions: This technique of image-guided biopsy has high diagnostic yield with acceptably low morbidity and may be performed as a day case. Intraoperative neuropathological examination would not have increased the diagnostic yield further in this study, and its routine use may not be necessary. In the authors' department pounds sterling 70,350 (UK)/$114,522 (US) would have been saved by not using intraoperative neuropathology in this series. Therefore, intraoperative neuropathology should no longer be routinely recommended.