Microstructural Investigations of the Visual Pathways in Pediatric Epilepsy Neurosurgery: Insights From Multi-Shell Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Front Neurosci. 2020 Apr 8;14:269. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2020.00269. eCollection 2020.


Background: Surgery is a key approach for achieving seizure freedom in children with focal onset epilepsy. However, the resection can affect or be in the vicinity of the optic radiations. Multi-shell diffusion MRI and tractography can better characterize tissue structure and provide guidance to help minimize surgical related deficits. Whilst in adults tractography has been used to demonstrate that damage to the optic radiations leads to postoperative visual field deficits, this approach has yet to be properly explored in children.

Objective: To demonstrate the capabilities of multi-shell diffusion MRI and tractography in characterizing microstructural changes in children with epilepsy pre- and post-surgery affecting the occipital, parietal or temporal lobes.

Methods: Diffusion Tensor Imaging and the Spherical Mean Technique were used to investigate the microstructure of the optic radiations. Furthermore, tractography was used to evaluate whether pre-surgical reconstructions of the optic radiations overlap with the resection margin as measured using anatomical post-surgical T1-weighted MRI.

Results: Increased diffusivity in patients compared to controls at baseline was observed with evidence of decreased diffusivity, anisotropy, and neurite orientation distribution in contralateral hemisphere after surgery. Pre-surgical optic radiation tractography overlapped with post-surgical resection margins in 20/43 (46%) children, and where visual data was available before and after surgery, the presence of overlap indicated a visual field deficit.

Conclusion: This is the first report in a pediatric series which highlights the relevance of tractography for future pre-surgical evaluation in children undergoing epilepsy surgery and the usefulness of multi-shell diffusion MRI to characterize brain microstructure in these patients.

Keywords: clinical; diffusion; multi-shell; pediatric; surgery; tractography; visual.