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Supratentorial low grade astrocytoma: prognostic factors, dedifferentiation, and the issue of early versus late surgery


BACKGROUND A retrospective study of patients with low grade astrocytoma was carried out because the best management of such patients remains controversial. Prognostic factors were identified by multivariate analysis. Special attention was paid to the effect of extent and timing of surgery.

METHODS Ninety patients with low grade astrocytoma were studied. Seventy two patients had resective surgery, 15 had a diagnostic biopsy only, and three patients had resective surgery after initial biopsy.

RESULTS Significant prognostic factors for survival were age, preoperative neurological condition, epilepsy as the single sign, extent of surgery, and histology. The extent of surgery was highly significant on univariate analysis (p=0.002); however, after correction for age and preoperative symptoms this was considerably reduced (p=0.04). A subgroup of 30 patients with epilepsy as their single presenting symptom was identified. Thirteen of these patients were treated immediately after diagnosis, whereas the other 17 patients were initially followed up and treated only after clinical or radiological progression. Survival in both groups was identical (63% survival rate after five years) and much better than survival for the whole group (27% survival rate after five years). Malignant dedifferentiation was observed in 25 (70%) of 36 patients who were reoperated, after a median period of 37 months. This period was 41 months for the subgroup of patients with epilepsy only and 28 months for the remaining patients.

CONCLUSIONS Due to the retrospective nature of the study only restricted conclusions can be drawn. Low grade glioma with epilepsy as the single symptom has a much better prognosis than if accompanied by other symptoms. This prognosis is not influenced by the timing of surgery. It seems, therefore, safe to defer surgery until clinical or radiological progression in low grade glioma with epilepsy only.

  • low grade astrocytoma
  • prognostic factors
  • dedifferentiation
  • deferred surgery

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