Brainstem corticospinal tract diffusion tensor imaging in patients with primary posterior fossa neoplasms stratified by tumor type: a study of association with motor weakness and outcome

Yvonne W. Lui, Meng Law, Jeena Chacko-Mathew, James S. Babb, Keren Tuvia, Jeffrey C. Allen, David Zagzag, Glyn Johnson

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OBJECTIVE: Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) allows in vivo delineation of brainstem white matter tracts. The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not abnormalities of DTI metrics and fiber tractography correlate with neurological deficits and clinical status in patients with primary posterior fossa tumors. METHODS: A review of patients with primary posterior fossa tumors who underwent magnetic resonance imaging with DTI was performed. Patients were stratified by tumor type (well-circumscribed or infiltrating lesions). Fractional anisotropy (FA) color maps were used to localize the corticospinal tracts within the brainstem. FA, mean diffusivity, and eigenvalues were measured. Tractography was performed. Correlations between DTI metrics and clinical status and between DTI metrics and neurological examination findings were assessed within each patient group using Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons. Comparisons of DTI metrics were also made between patient groups (infiltrating lesions versus well-circumscribed lesions). RESULTS: Thirty patients were studied (mean age, 14.1 yr; 16 male, 14 female). Eighteen patients had infiltrating lesions and 12 had well-circumscribed lesions. Twelve patients (four well-circumscribed and eight infiltrating) demonstrated motor weakness on physical examination (four right, three left, five bilateral). Patients with well-circumscribed lesions and weakness had higher mean diffusivity and lower FA in the contralateral corticospinal tract (P <0.05). No such association was seen in patients with infiltrating tumors. In 102 total patient-years of follow-up (average follow-up period, 4.2 yr), 17 patients (six well-circumscribed and 11 infiltrating lesions) demonstrated complete response or stable disease and six patients (three well-circumscribed and three infiltrating lesions) demonstrated progressive disease or death. No differences were seen in terms of DTI metrics between patients with infiltrating lesions and those with well-circumscribed lesions. Patients with well-circumscribed tumors and a bad outcome had significantly lower transverse eigenvalue measures in the corticospinal tracts compared with those with a more favorable clinical status (P <0.05). CONCLUSION: In patients with well-circumscribed primary posterior fossa masses, higher mean diffusivity and lower FA in the brainstem corticospinal tract are associated with contralateral motor deficits; lower transverse eigenvalue may be observed with an unfavorable clinical outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1199-1208
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • Brain tumor
  • Correlation diffusion tensor and outcome
  • Diffusion
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

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