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Awake brain tumor resection during pregnancy: Decision making and technical nuances


The co-occurrence of primary brain tumor and pregnancy poses unique challenges to the treating physician. If a rapidly growing lesion causes life-threatening mass effect, craniotomy for tumor debulking becomes urgent. The choice between awake craniotomy versus general anesthesia becomes complicated if the tumor is encroaching on eloquent brain because considerations pertinent to both patient safety and oncological outcome, in addition to fetal wellbeing, are involved. A 31-year-old female at 30 weeks gestation with twins presented to our hospital seeking awake craniotomy to resect a 7 × 6 × 5 cm left frontoparietal brain tumor with 7 mm left-to-right subfalcine herniation on imaging that led to word finding difficulty, dysfluency, right upper extremity paralysis, and right lower extremity weakness. She had twice undergone tumor debulking under general anesthesia during the same pregnancy at an outside hospital at 16 weeks and 28 weeks gestation. There were considerations both for and against awake brain tumor resection over surgery under general anesthesia. The decision-making process and the technical nuances related to awake brain tumor resection in this neurologically impaired patient are discussed. Awake craniotomy benefits the patient who harbors a tumor that encroaches on the eloquent brain by allowing a greater extent of resection while preserving the language and sensorimotor function. It can be successfully done in pregnant patients who are neurologically impaired. The patient should be motivated and well informed of the details of the process. A multidisciplinary and collaborative effort is also crucial.

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