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Brain biopsy in neurologic decline of unknown etiology.

  • Author(s): Magaki, Shino
  • Gardner, Tracie
  • Khanlou, Negar
  • Yong, William H
  • Salamon, Noriko
  • Vinters, Harry V
  • et al.
Abstract

Brain biopsies have an uncertain role in the diagnosis of patients with dementia or neurologic decline of unknown etiology. They are often performed only after an exhaustive panel of less invasive tests and procedures have failed to provide a definitive diagnosis. The objective of this study was to evaluate the sensitivity of brain biopsies in this patient group through the retrospective analysis of 53 brain biopsies performed for neurologic disease of unknown etiology at a single tertiary care institution between December 2001 and December 2011. Patients with known nonlymphomatous neoplasms thought to be associated with the neurologic symptoms or with immunodeficiency were excluded from the study. Furthermore, the clinical presentation, imaging and laboratory tests were compared between diagnostic groups to identify factors more likely to yield a diagnosis. Sixty percent of the biopsies were diagnostic (32 of 53), with the most common histologic diagnosis of central nervous system lymphoma in 14 of 53 patients (26% of total) followed by infarct in four subjects (7.5%). A few patients were found to have rare and unsuspected diseases such as lymphomatosis cerebri, neurosarcoidosis and neuroaxonal leukodystrophy. Complications from biopsy were uncommon and included hemorrhage and infection with abscess formation at the biopsy site. These results suggest that brain biopsies may be useful in difficult cases in which less invasive measures have been unable to yield a definitive diagnosis.

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