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Awake craniotomy for glioblastoma in COVID-19-positive patients and delivering the standard of care: illustrative case.

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Providing the standard of care to patients with glioblastoma (GBM) during the novel coronavirus of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is a challenge, particularly if a patient tests positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Further difficulties occur in eloquent cortex tumors because awake speech mapping can theoretically aerosolize viral particles and expose staff. Moreover, microscopic neurosurgery has become difficult because the use of airborne-level personal protective equipment (PPE) crowds the space between the surgeon and the eyepiece. However, delivering substandard care will inevitably lead to disease progression and poor outcomes.


A 60-year-old man with a left insular and frontal operculum GBM was found to be COVID-19 positive. Treatment was postponed pending a negative SARS-CoV-2 result, but in the interim, he developed intratumoral hemorrhage with progressive expressive aphasia. Because the tumor was causing dominant hemisphere language symptomatology, an awake craniotomy was the recommended surgical approach. With the use of airborne-level PPE and a surgical drape to protect the surgeon from the direction of potential aerosolization, near-total gross resection was achieved.


Delaying the treatment of patients with GBM who test positive for COVID-19 will lead to further neurological deterioration. Optimal and timely treatment such as awake speech mapping for COVID-19-positive patients with GBM can be provided safely.

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