Object: Functional MRI (fMRI) has the potential to be a useful presurgical planning tool to treat patients with primary brain tumor. In this study the authors retrospectively explored relationships between language-related postoperative outcomes in such patients and multiple factors, including measures estimated from task fMRI maps (proximity of lesion to functional activation area, or lesion-to-activation distance [LAD], and activation-based language lateralization, or lateralization index [LI]) used in the clinical setting for presurgical planning, as well as other factors such as patient age, patient sex, tumor grade, and tumor volume.
Methods: Patient information was drawn from a database of patients with brain tumors who had undergone preoperative fMRI-based language mapping of the Broca and Wernicke areas. Patients had performed a battery of tasks, including word-generation tasks and a text-versus-symbols reading task, as part of a clinical fMRI protocol. Individually thresholded task fMRI activation maps had been provided for use in the clinical setting. These clinical imaging maps were used to retrospectively estimate LAD and LI for the Broca and Wernicke areas.
Results: There was a relationship between postoperative language deficits and the proximity between tumor and Broca area activation (the LAD estimate), where shorter LADs were related to the presence of postoperative aphasia. Stratification by tumor location further showed that for posterior tumors within the temporal and parietal lobes, more bilaterally oriented Broca area activation (LI estimate close to 0) and a shorter Wernicke area LAD were associated with increased postoperative aphasia. Furthermore, decreasing LAD was related to decreasing LI for both Broca and Wernicke areas. Preoperative deficits were related to increasing patient age and a shorter Wernicke area LAD.
Conclusions: Overall, LAD and LI, as determined using fMRI in the context of these paradigms, may be useful indicators of postsurgical outcomes. Whereas tumor location may influence postoperative deficits, the results indicated that tumor proximity to an activation area might also interact with how the language network is affected as a whole by the lesion. Although the derivation of LI must be further validated in individual patients by using spatially specific statistical methods, the current results indicated that fMRI is a useful tool for predicting postoperative outcomes in patients with a single brain tumor.