Background. Frameless stereotaxy or neuronavigation has evolved into a feasible technology to acquire intracaranial biopsies with good accuracy and little mortality. However, few studies have evaluated the diagnostic yield, morbidity, and mortality of this technique as compared to the established standard of frame-based stereotactic brain biopsy. We report our experience of a large number of procedures performed with one or other technique.
Patients and methods. We retrospectively assessed 465 consecutive biopsies done over a ten-year time span; Data from 391 biopsies (227 frame-based and 164 frameless) were available for analysis. Patient demographics, peri-operative characteristics, and histological diagnosis were reviewed and then information was analysed to identify factors associated with the biopsy not yielding a diagnosis and of it being followed by death.
Results. On average, nine tissue samples were taken with either stereotaxy technique. Overall, the biopsy led to a diagnosis on 89.4% of occasions. No differences were found between the two biopsy procedures. In a multiple regression analysis, it was found that left-sided lesions were less likely to result in a non-diagnostic tissue sample (p = 0.023), and cerebellar lesions showed a high risk of negative histology (p = 0.006). Postoperative complications were seen after 12.1% of biopsies, including 15 symptomatic haemorrhages (3.8%). There was not a difference between the rates of complication after either a frame-based or a frameless biopsy. Overall, peri-operative complications (p = 0.030) and deep-seated lesions (p = 0.060) increased the risk of biopsy-related death. Symptomatic haemorrhages resulting in death (1.5% of all biopsies) were more frequently seen after biopsy of a fronto-temporally located lesion (p = 0.007) and in patients with a histologically confirmed lymphoma (p = 0.039).
Conclusions. The diagnostic yield, complication rates, and biopsy-related mortality did not differ between a frameless biopsy technique and the established frame-based technique. The site of the lesion and the occurrence of a peri-operative complication were associated with the likelihood of failure to achieve a diagnosis and with death after biopsy. We believe that using intraoperative frozen section or cytologic smear histology is essential during a stereotactic biopsy in order to increase the diagnostic yield and to limit the number of biopsy specimens that need to be taken.
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