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Pediatric intrinsic brainstem lesions: clinical, imaging, histological characterization, and predictors of survival

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Brainstem lesions comprise 10–20% of all pediatric brain tumors. Over the past years, the benefits of stereotactic biopsy versus the use alone of MRI features to guide treatment have been controversial.


Retrospective study with pediatric patients submitted to stereotactic brainstem biopsies between 2008 and 2018. Demographic, clinical, imaging, and surgical characteristics were recorded, as well as the histological diagnosis, complications, and survival. Predictors of survival were evaluated through Cox regression models after multivariate adjustment.


Twenty-six patients (mean age of 8.8 ± 4.3 years and 14 female). Diagnosis was reached on 84.6% (95% CI 65.1–95.6%) of the patients. Glioma was diagnosed on 20 cases (11 high-grade and 9 low-grade lesions). There was no association between age and gender and the dichotomized histological diagnosis. Contrast enhancement, diffuse distribution, invasion of adjacent structures, and remote injury were present on 62.5%, 75.0%, 62.5%, and 25.0% of the cases. Hydrocephalus at admission was present on almost half of the patients (46.2%). Only radiological invasion of adjacent structures had a possible association with high-grade lesions (p = 0.057). Surgical trajectory was trans-cerebellar in most of the cases (79.9%). There were no major complications and only two minor/transitory complications. Poorer survival was independently associated with high-grade lesions (HR 32.14, 95% CI 1.40–735.98, p = 0.030) and contrast enhancement at MRI (HR 36.54, 95% CI 1.40–952.26, p = 0.031).


Stereotactic biopsy was safe and allows successful tissue sampling for a definite diagnosis. Poorer survival was independently associated with high-grade and contrast-enhancing lesions.

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Correspondence to Barbara Albuquerque Morais.

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Morais, B.A., Solla, D.J.F., Matushita, H. et al. Pediatric intrinsic brainstem lesions: clinical, imaging, histological characterization, and predictors of survival. Childs Nerv Syst (2019).

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  • Stereotactic biopsy
  • Brainstem
  • Children
  • Histopathological diagnosis
  • Survival