Diffusion tensor imaging increases ability to remove benign tumors in children

December 04, 2009

A new study published this week in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics finds that operative plans for removing Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma, or JPA, tumors in the thalamus of the brain can be augmented with Diffusion Tensor Imaging, or DTI. The sensitivity of DTI imaging allows for the visualization of nerve fiber bundles in the brain. This information can maximize the potential of completely removing the tumor while avoiding damage to the fiber bundles that are directly related to motor functions of the patient.

"This study of six children with thalamic JPA showed that using advanced MRI technology can help identify distorted nerve fiber bundles around brain tumors," said Jeffrey H. Wisoff, MD, director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. "This allows an otherwise inoperable tumor to be completely removed which can hopefully lead to a cure."

Operating on patients with deep-seated tumors such as JPA, a benign tumor most frequently observed in children and young adults in the thalamus, remains a neurosurgical challenge. Conventional imaging techniques, such as structural MRI, has been revolutionary in helping to reveal major anatomical features of the brain, primary gray matter which is made up of nerve cell bodies. Diffusion Tensor Imaging, a variation of MRI, can help identify white matter, or nerve fiber bundles, using specific radio-frequency and magnetic field pulses to track the movement of water molecules of the brain. In most brain tissue, water molecules diffuse in all different directions. But they tend to diffuse along the length of axons, whose coating of white, fatty myelin holds them in. Scientists can create pictures of axons by analyzing the direction of water diffusion.
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Study co-authors include Yaron Moshel, MD, PhD, of the Department of Neurosurgery, David J. Monoky, MD, clinical assistant professor in the Department or Radiology and Robert E. Elliott, MD, in the Department of Neurosurgery at NYU Langone Medical Center.

About NYU Langone Medical Center

NYU Langone Medical Center is one of the nation's premier centers of excellence in healthcare, biomedical research, and medical education. For over 168 years, NYU physicians and researchers have made countless contributions to the practice and science of health care. Today the Medical Center consists of NYU School of Medicine, including the Smilow Research Center, the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, and the Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences; the three hospitals of NYU Hospitals Center, Tisch Hospital, a 705-bed acute-care general hospital, Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the first and largest facility of its kind, and NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, a leader in musculoskeletal care; and such major programs as the NYU Cancer Institute, the NYU Child Study Center, and the Hassenfeld Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

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