How is stereotactic brain biopsy evolving? A multicentric analysis of a series of 421 cases treated in Rome over the last sixteen years

Giorgio M. Callovini, Stefano Telera, Shahram Sherkat, Isabella Sperduti, Tommaso Callovini, Carmine M. Carapella

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Objective: In recent decades, frame-based (FBB) and frame-less stereotactic brain biopsy (FLB) have played a crucial role in defining the diagnosis and management of expanding intracranial lesions in critical areas. During the same period, there have been significant advances in diagnostic imaging, a shift in surgical strategies towards extensive resection in gliomas and new molecular classification of brain tumors. Taking these advances into account, we have evaluated whether significant changes have occurred over the last sixteen years of our clinical practice in terms of frequency, indications, target selection, and the histologic results of stereotactic brain biopsy (SBB) procedures. Patients and Methods: We analyzed a series of 421 SBB cases treated between January 2002 and June 2017 in three major neurosurgical institutes in Rome, serving a total of 1.5 million people. Within this series, 94.8% of patients underwent FBB, while, more recently, FLB was performed in 5.2% of cases. The entire period under consideration, running from 2002 to 2017, has been further stratified into four-year time-frames (2002–2005, 2006–2009, 2010–2013, 2014–2017) for the purpose of analysis. Results: The diagnostic yield was 97%. Final diagnoses revealed tumors in 90% of cases and non-neoplastic masses in 7%, while 3% of cases were not conclusive. The morbidity rate was 3% (12 cases) and mortality was 0.7% (3 cases). Intra-operative frozen sections were made in 78% of biopsies. In our three institutes, the number of SBBs decreased steadily throughout the time-frames under consideration. We have also observed a statistically significant reduction in biopsy procedures in lobar lesions, while those performed on the basal ganglia increased and the number of SBBs of multiple masses and lesions of the corpus callosum remained stable. Primary central nervous system diagnosis of lymphomas (PCNSL) was the sole diagnosis whose incidence increased significantly. Conclusions: Over the last sixteen years, we have witnessed a significant decrease in SBB procedures and a modification in target selection and histologic results. Despite the significant evolution of neuroimaging, an accurate non-invasive diagnosis of intracranial expanding lesions has not yet been achieved. Furthermore, the most recent WHO classification of brain tumors (2016), which incorporates molecular and morphological features, has boosted the need for molecular processing of tissue samples in all expanding brain lesions. For these reasons, it is likely that SBBs will continue to be performed in specific cases, playing a significant role in diagnostic confirmation by providing tissue samples, so as to better assess the biology and the prognosis of cerebral lesions, as well as their sensitivity to standard radio-chemotherapy or to new molecular target therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-107
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Neurology and Neurosurgery
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Diffuse low-grade glioma-PCNSL
  • Stereotactic brain biopsy
  • WHO classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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