Efficacy of proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in clinical decision making for patients with suspected malignant brain tumors

Lin A, Bluml S, Mamelak AN

J. Neurooncol. 1999;45(1):69-81

PMID: 10728912


We wished to determine the utility of single voxel proton (1H) magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) when used as an alternative or adjunct to brain biopsy in patients harboring lesions suggestive of brain tumors identified by MRI scan. Fifteen patients (age 7-58 years) with MRI scans and clinical histories suggestive of primary brain tumors underwent single voxel 1H-MRS. MRS (16 regions of interest in 15 patients) was used to aid in differentiation between tumor and other pathologies such as stroke or demyelinating plaque (n = 6), radiation necrosis (n = 5), or edema (n = 5). Spectra were quantified to determine absolute molar values of N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), choline (Cho), creatine (Cr), lactate (LAC), and myo-inositol (mI), metabolite ratios relative to Cr were calculated, and spectra were interpreted based on metabolite ratios. Subsequent clinical management was based on MRS interpretation, and patients were then followed to determine if MRS interpretation accurately predicted clinical outcome or surgical findings. Mean follow-up was 12.5 months (range 3-28 months). MRS suggested the presence of recurrent tumor in 7 cases, all of which were subsequently ‘confirmed’ by tumor resection (n = 4) or disease progression (n = 3). MRS suggested the presence of new tumor in 1 case, subsequently confirmed by surgical resection. MRS suggested the presence of necrosis in 3 patients; all 3 remained radiographically stable during the follow-up period, and one was confirmed by stereotactic biopsy. MRS suggested non-neoplastic lesions in 4 cases, 3 of whom were followed until radiographic resolution of lesions and one of which was confirmed as a pyogenic abscess via stereotactic aspiration. Overall, MRS accurately predicted the pathological nature and clinical outcome of lesions in 15/16 (96%) situations, influenced clinical decision making in 12 cases, and altered surgery planning in 7 patients. In appropriate circumstances MRS can reduce the need for biopsy, and provide an important guide for clinical decision-making in difficult cases.