BACKGROUND: The feasibility and safety of stereotactic biopsy for brainstem tumors (BSTs) are controversial. Although magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been reported as the preferred diagnostic tool, histopathological analysis is frequently necessary to establish a definitive diagnosis. Recent advances in molecular characterization of brainstem gliomas—accounting for the majority of BSTs—have revealed several potential targets for molecular-based therapies. Hence, a molecular stereotactic biopsy that combines histopathological diagnosis with molecular-genetic analysis will become increasingly important for patients with BSTs.
OBJECTIVE: We conducted a systemic review and meta-analysis to determine the risks and benefits of stereotactic biopsy for BSTs.
METHODS: A systematic search in PubMed, Embase, and the Web of Science yielded 3766 potentially eligible abstracts. Meta-analysis was conducted on 38 studies describing 1480 biopsy procedures for BSTs. Primary outcome measures were diagnostic success and procedure-related complications. Data were analyzed according to standard meta-analytic techniques.
RESULTS: The weighted average proportions across the analyzed studies were: 96.2% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 94.5%-97.6%) for diagnostic success, 7.8% (95% CI: 5.6%-10.2%) for overall morbidity, 1.7% (95% CI: 0.9%-2.7%) for permanent morbidity, and 0.9% (95% CI: 0.5%-1.4%) for mortality. Meta-regression revealed a significant correlation between diagnostic success rates and the number of biopsy procedures performed annually in each center (P = .011). Other factors did not affect the outcome measures.
CONCLUSION: Stereotactic biopsy of BSTs is safe. It allows exact histopathological diagnosis as a prerequisite for adequate treatment and opens new perspectives for the molecular characterization of these tumors as a crucial first step toward more individualized treatment concepts.
ABBREVIATIONS: BST, brainstem tumor
CI, confidence interval
D-BSG, diffuse brainstem glioma
HGG, high-grade glioma
LGG, low-grade gliomas