Computed imaging-assisted stereotactic brain biopsy: A risk analysis of 225 consecutive cases

Paul D. Sawin, Patrick W. Hitchon, Kenneth A. Follett, James C. Torner

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BACKGROUND: Treatment strategies for intracranial mass lesions are most effective when based upon histopathological diagnoses. Image-guided stereotaxy has provided the means to sample tissue from small or deeply seated intraparenchymal lesions with a relatively high degree of safety and accuracy. Although procedural complications are infrequent, devastating neurological sequelae may result from hemorrhage or direct trauma. This study was undertaken to identify factors that may confer an increased risk of morbidity from stereotactic brain biopsy. METHODS: Two hundred twenty-five consecutive computer-assisted stereotactic brain biopsy procedures were reviewed. Patient age averaged 47.4 years (range, 3-84 years); gender ratio was approximately 2:1 (male:female). Pre-existing medical conditions were identified in nearly half of the cohort. 61.3% of biopsied lesions were lobar; the remainder (38.7%) were 'deep-seated' (thalamus, basal ganglia, pineal, hypothalamus, cerebellum, brainstem). Glial tumors accounted for the majority (44.4%) of biopsied lesions; metastases (12.9%) and lymphoma (11.6%) were also relatively common. Demographical, anatomical, surgical, and histological data were compiled and putative risk factors for morbidity identified. These variables were then subjected to univariate and logistic regression analyses to determine their significance as independent predictors of operative risk. RESULTS: Twelve patients suffered complications as a consequence of the biopsy procedure (eight from hemorrhage, four from direct trauma). Major morbidity (hemiparesis, aphasia, obtundation) occurred in eight patients (3.6%). Three patients (1.3%) suffered minor morbidity (transient, mild neurological deficits). One operative fatality occurred (0.4%). An increased risk of morbidity was associated with the preoperative use of antiplatelet agents, chronic corticosteroids, deep-seated lesions, malignant gliomas, and a greater number of biopsy attempts (p < 0.05). Factors not conferring increased morbidity included gender, age, preexisting illness, extracranial malignancy, cardiac disease, hypertension, diabetes, HIV status, and instrument used to procure the specimen. CONCLUSIONS: Complications arising from stereotactic brain biopsy are infrequent but can be disastrous. Operative risk is a function of several independent variables, including lesion properties (location, histology), preoperative pharmacological therapy (corticosteroids, antiplatelet agents), and operative technique. This analysis suggests that the morbidity of stereotactic brain biopsy may be minimized by risk factor modification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)640-649
Number of pages10
JournalSurgical neurology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 1998



  • Brain biopsy
  • Brain neoplasm
  • Complication
  • Risk factors
  • Stereotaxy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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