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Visual pathway impairment by pituitary adenomas: quantitative diagnostics by diffusion tensor imaging.

Journal article
Authors Ylva Lilja
Oscar Gustafsson
Maria Ljungberg
Göran Starck
Bertil Lindblom
Thomas Skoglund
Henrik Bergquist
Karl-Erik Jakobsson
Daniel Nilsson
Published in Journal of neurosurgery
Volume 127
Issue 3
Pages 569-579
ISSN 1933-0693
Publication year 2017
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Radiation Physics
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Otorhinolaryngology
Pages 569-579
Language en
Subject categories Neurosurgery, Radiological physics, Diagnostic radiology, Cancer and Oncology


OBJECTIVE Despite ample experience in surgical treatment of pituitary adenomas, little is known about objective indices that may reveal risk of visual impairment caused by tumor growth that leads to compression of the anterior visual pathways. This study aimed to explore diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) as a means for objective assessment of injury to the anterior visual pathways caused by pituitary adenomas. METHODS Twenty-three patients with pituitary adenomas, scheduled for transsphenoidal tumor resection, and 20 healthy control subjects were included in the study. A minimum suprasellar tumor extension of Grade 2-4, according to the SIPAP (suprasellar, infrasellar, parasellar, anterior, and posterior) scale, was required for inclusion. Neuroophthalmological examinations, conventional MRI, and DTI were completed in all subjects and were repeated 6 months after surgery. Quantitative assessment of chiasmal lift, visual field defect (VFD), and DTI parameters from the optic tracts was performed. Linear correlations, group comparisons, and prediction models were done in controls and patients. RESULTS Both the degree of VFD and chiasmal lift were significantly correlated with the radial diffusivity (r = 0.55, p < 0.05 and r = 0.48, p < 0.05, respectively) and the fractional anisotropy (r = -0.58, p < 0.05 and r = -0.47, p < 0.05, respectively) but not with the axial diffusivity. The axial diffusivity differed significantly between controls and patients with VFD, both before and after surgery (p < 0.05); however, no difference was found between patients with and without VFD. Based on the axial diffusivity and fractional anisotropy, a prediction model classified all patients with VFD correctly (sensitivity 1.0), 9 of 12 patients without VFD correctly (sensitivity 0.75), and 17 of 20 controls as controls (specificity 0.85). CONCLUSIONS DTI could detect pathology and degree of injury in the anterior visual pathways that were compressed by pituitary adenomas. The correlation between radial diffusivity and visual impairment may reflect a gradual demyelination in the visual pathways caused by an increased tumor effect. The low level of axial diffusivity found in the patient group may represent early atrophy in the visual pathways, detectable on DTI but not by conventional methods. DTI may provide objective data, detect early signs of injury, and be an additional diagnostic tool for determining indication for surgery in cases of pituitary adenomas.

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