Intracranial metastases in small cell carcinoma of the lung: correlation of clinical and autopsy findings

Cancer. 1982 Dec 1;50(11):2433-7. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19821201)50:11<2433::aid-cncr2820501131>;2-e.


Two hundred-twelve consecutive patients with small cell carcinoma of the lung were included in an evaluation of clinical and diagnostic neurologic findings of intracranial metastases. A correlation of premortem findings to postmortem examination of the brain was obtained in 87 of the patients. Clinical intracranial metastases were diagnosed in 21.2% on the basis of symptoms and signs. At autopsy 44 of the 87 patients (50%) had metastases. Lesions located to the posterior cranial fossa were demonstrated in 53% of the positive autopsies. A correlation of 96% existed between significant premortem clinical findings and positive autopsy, while 33% had clinically "silent" metastases at autopsy. A neuro-oncologic examination was performed in 49 patients at the time of presentation of neurologic symptoms. Twenty-eight patients were considered to have intracranial metastases. Gait disturbances were the presenting signs in more than 50% of the patients. Brain metastases were demonstrated at autopsy in 14 of 15 patients considered to have intracranial metastases by the neuro-oncologist, and clinically "silent" metastases were observed in one out of 10 patients. Radionuclide brain scan was negative in seven of 13 patients in spite of "positive" neuro-oncological examination had a subsequent positive autopsy. Cerebrospinal fluid examination was of no value in the diagnosis of brain metastases. It is concluded that a careful clinical examination by a neuro-oncologist is of great value in early detection of brain metastases, especially in diagnosing metastases to the posterior cranial fossa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Palliative Care
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use


  • Prednisone