Neurosurgery Core

Alexandra Golby Lauren O'Donnell Nathalie Agar
Alexandra Golby, MD
Core Lead
Lauren O'Donnell, PhD
Project Lead
Nathalie Agar, PhD
Project Lead

The neurosurgery project is developing new technologies toward the long-term goal of allowing neurosurgeons in diverse settings to implement the advantages of image-guided therapy (IGT) for their patients. We investigate, develop, and validate approaches that address the two key problems in brain tumor surgery: to define the critical brain regions that must not be resected, and to define the extent and nature of the lesion. Put more simply, we create tools that support the neurosurgeon’s crucial decision of what to preserve, and what to remove. Maximizing tumor resection improves patients’ progression-free survival and overall survival; avoiding neurological deficits also improves survival and deeply impacts daily life for patients. Our strategies leverage preoperative and intraoperative imaging data to optimize brain tumor surgery. We are focusing on multimodality imaging data including diffusion MRI (dMRI), functional MRI (fMRI), and on applying mass spectrometry (MS) as a molecular analysis tool for tumor detection. To improve understanding of critical, individual patient brain functional anatomy, we jointly model functional and structural data for semi-automatic and improved localization of eloquent brain structures. To guide surgical decision making by better defining tumor margins, we investigate MS as an intraoperative molecular diagnostic method. Achievement of these goals supports the overall goal of NCIGT that is relevant for brain tumor surgery: to maximize the extent of tumor resection while minimizing the risk of neurologic deficit. Our projects are:

Computer-aided individualized labeling of critical brain structures. fMRI and dMRI provide pre-operative non-invasive maps of patients’ functional activations and white matter connections. fMRI and dMRI have been shown to increase resection and time of survival, but their translation to widespread clinical use faces significant challenges. Interpretation of the data is difficult, requiring extensive experience and time, and requiring software tools that are unwieldy and not clinically oriented. In order to provide more useful pre-operative mapping, we create a system that produces labeled maps of individual brain functional anatomy, even in cases with missing data, distortion, edema, or reorganization. Our overall strategy is to model the anatomical relationship between structural connections and functional activations, and to build models designed to generalize to patients with mass lesions or displacement, with the aid of machine learning algorithms. We are investigating the following novel and complementary tools: labeling of fMRI activations to produce a segmentation of a discrete set of cortical features of importance for neurosurgery, semi-automatic fMRI thresholding, multimodal calculation of language lateralization, and iterative joint labeling of fMRI activations and fiber tracts. We are developing the computational tools in stages so that each tool can be used either alone, or as part of the full system. We especially focus on the challenge of language mapping interpretation that requires identification of both the crucial language-specific functional cortical regions and the crucial language-specific fiber tracts. We are validating results using expert raters and intraoperative electrocortical stimulation data. Overall, we are creating the first image analysis software that can semi-automatically produce a multimodal structure-function map of individual patient anatomy for neurosurgery. (Contact: Lauren O'Donnell)

Optimal resection guided by mass spectrometry. Intraoperative decision making regarding how much tissue to resect during brain tumor surgery is of critical importance, yet as the surgery progresses the surgeon has access to less and less reliable data to guide this decision. To optimize the surgical resection of brain tumors, surgeons need more information to assess the boundaries between tumor and healthy tissue. In order to give surgeons a better understanding of the tissue being resected, we are investigating MS as an intra-operative molecular analysis tool for surgical guidance in the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating Suite (AMIGO). The introduction of MS into routine surgical protocols for real-time characterization of tissue relies on the development and validation of the molecular reference system. The current iteration of the intraoperative platform is based on an ambient ionization methodology that allows for the analysis of tissue with little to no sample preparation. We validate the technology for real-time identification of surgical margins and molecular diagnosis by comparing against standard histopathology. The neurosurgeon stereotactically samples multiple specimens from each brain tumor resection and these are analyzed with a mass spectrometer in the AMIGO suite. We also correlate molecular, imaging and histopathologic findings in the 3D tumor space. Overall, our goal is to provide data equivalent or better to intraoperative MRI with less workflow disruption, less cost, and far less infrastructure needs. (Contact: Nathalie Agar)

Software and Documentation

3D Slicer, a comprehensive open source platform for medical image analysis, contains several modules that have been contributed by us for Image-Guided Brain Tumor Surgery. These include:
  • UKF Tractography Two-tensor modeling with Kalman filtering to track through regions of crossing and edema.

  • White Matter Analysis Software for modeling and segmentation of white matter tracts. The output is visualized in 3D Slicer.

  • Diffusion MRI in 3D Slicer Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging in 3D Slicer open-source software.



These presentations have been selected as tutorials for readers interested in learning about the clinical science and technology of the Neurosurgery Core.


Full Publication List

In NIH/NLM database and in our Abstracts Database.

Select Recent Publications

Lee TC, Guenette JP, Moses ZB, Chi JH. MRI-Guided Cryoablation of Epidural Malignancies in the Spinal Canal Resulting in Neural Decompression and Regrowth of Bone. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2019;212 (1) :205-8.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this article is to describe the use of MRI to safely monitor cryoablation for the treatment of spinal epidural malignancies. CONCLUSION: Use of MRI guidance to monitor percutaneous cryoablation allows ablation margins more distinct than those allowed by heat-based ablation modalities. MRI-guided cryoablation is a feasible option for treating epidural tumors involving the spinal canal, resulting in successful decompression of the tumor away from the spinal cord with regrowth of previously eroded bone around the spinal canal.
Bunevicius A, Schregel K, Sinkus R, Golby A, Patz S. REVIEW: MR Elastography of Brain Tumors. Neuroimage Clin. 2019;25 :102109.Abstract
MR elastography allows non-invasive quantification of the shear modulus of tissue, i.e. tissue stiffness and viscosity, information that offers the potential to guide presurgical planning for brain tumor resection. Here, we review brain tumor MRE studies with particular attention to clinical applications. Studies that investigated MRE in patients with intracranial tumors, both malignant and benign as well as primary and metastatic, were queried from the Pubmed/Medline database in August 2018. Reported tumor and normal appearing white matter stiffness values were extracted and compared as a function of tumor histopathological diagnosis and MRE vibration frequencies. Because different studies used different elastography hardware, pulse sequences, reconstruction inversion algorithms, and different symmetry assumptions about the mechanical properties of tissue, effort was directed to ensure that similar quantities were used when making inter-study comparisons. In addition, because different methodologies and processing pipelines will necessarily bias the results, when pooling data from different studies, whenever possible, tumor values were compared with the same subject's contralateral normal appearing white matter to minimize any study-dependent bias. The literature search yielded 10 studies with a total of 184 primary and metastatic brain tumor patients. The group mean tumor stiffness, as measured with MRE, correlated with intra-operatively assessed stiffness of meningiomas and pituitary adenomas. Pooled data analysis showed significant overlap between shear modulus values across brain tumor types. When adjusting for the same patient normal appearing white matter shear modulus values, meningiomas were the stiffest tumor-type. MRE is increasingly being examined for potential in brain tumor imaging and might have value for surgical planning. However, significant overlap of shear modulus values between a number of different tumor types limits applicability of MRE for diagnostic purposes. Thus, further rigorous studies are needed to determine specific clinical applications of MRE for surgical planning, disease monitoring and molecular stratification of brain tumors.
Rigolo L, Essayed WI, Tie Y, Norton I, Mukundan S, Golby A. Intraoperative Use of Functional MRI for Surgical Decision Making after Limited or Infeasible Electrocortical Stimulation Mapping. J Neuroimaging. 2019.Abstract
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is becoming widely recognized as a key component of preoperative neurosurgical planning, although intraoperative electrocortical stimulation (ECS) is considered the gold standard surgical brain mapping method. However, acquiring and interpreting ECS results can sometimes be challenging. This retrospective study assesses whether intraoperative availability of fMRI impacted surgical decision-making when ECS was problematic or unobtainable. METHODS: Records were reviewed for 191 patients who underwent presurgical fMRI with fMRI loaded into the neuronavigation system. Four patients were excluded as a bur-hole biopsy was performed. Imaging was acquired at 3 Tesla and analyzed using the general linear model with significantly activated pixels determined via individually determined thresholds. fMRI maps were displayed intraoperatively via commercial neuronavigation systems. RESULTS: Seventy-one cases were planned ECS; however, 18 (25.35%) of these procedures were either not attempted or aborted/limited due to: seizure (10), patient difficulty cooperating with the ECS mapping (4), scarring/limited dural opening (3), or dural bleeding (1). In all aborted/limited ECS cases, the surgeon continued surgery using fMRI to guide surgical decision-making. There was no significant difference in the incidence of postoperative deficits between cases with completed ECS and those with limited/aborted ECS. CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative fMRI allowed for continuation of surgery in over one-fourth of patients in which planned ECS was incomplete or impossible, without a significantly different incidence of postoperative deficits compared to the patients with completed ECS. This demonstrates additional value of fMRI beyond presurgical planning, as fMRI data served as a backup method to ECS.
Basu SS, McMinn MH, Giménez-Cassina Lopéz B, Regan MS, Randall EC, Clark AR, Cox CR, Agar NYR. Metal Oxide Laser Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MOLI MSI) Using Cerium(IV) Oxide. Anal Chem. 2019;91 (10) :6800-7.Abstract
Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI MSI) is a powerful technique for spatially resolved metabolomics. A variation on MALDI, termed metal oxide laser ionization (MOLI), capitalizes on the unique property of cerium(IV) oxide (CeO) to induce laser-catalyzed fatty acyl cleavage from lipids and has been utilized for bacterial identification. In this study, we present the development and utilization of CeO as an MSI catalyst. The method was developed using a MALDI TOF instrument in negative ion mode, equipped with a high frequency laser. Instrument parameters for MOLI MS fatty acid catalysis with CeO were optimized with phospholipid standards and fatty acid catalysis was confirmed using lipid extracts from reference bacterial strains, and sample preparation was optimized using mouse brain tissue. MOLI MSI was applied to the imaging of normal mouse brain revealing differentiable fatty acyl pools in myelinated and nonmyelinated regions. Similarly, MOLI MSI showed distinct fatty acyl composition in tumor regions of a patient derived xenograft mouse model of glioblastoma. To assess the potential of MOLI MSI to detect pathogens directly from tissue, a pseudoinfection model was prepared by spotting Escherichia coli lipid extracts on mouse brain tissue sections and imaged by MOLI MSI. The spotted regions were molecularly resolved from the supporting mouse brain tissue by the diagnostic odd-chained fatty acids and reflected control bacterial MOLI MS signatures. We describe MOLI MSI for the first time and highlight its potential for spatially resolved fatty acyl analysis, characterization of fatty acyl composition in tumors, and its potential for pathogen detection directly from tissue.
Sjölund J, Eklund A, Özarslan E, Herberthson M, Bånkestad M, Knutsson H. Bayesian Uncertainty Quantification in Linear Models for Diffusion MRI. Neuroimage. 2018;175 :272-85.Abstract
Diffusion MRI (dMRI) is a valuable tool in the assessment of tissue microstructure. By fitting a model to the dMRI signal it is possible to derive various quantitative features. Several of the most popular dMRI signal models are expansions in an appropriately chosen basis, where the coefficients are determined using some variation of least-squares. However, such approaches lack any notion of uncertainty, which could be valuable in e.g. group analyses. In this work, we use a probabilistic interpretation of linear least-squares methods to recast popular dMRI models as Bayesian ones. This makes it possible to quantify the uncertainty of any derived quantity. In particular, for quantities that are affine functions of the coefficients, the posterior distribution can be expressed in closed-form. We simulated measurements from single- and double-tensor models where the correct values of several quantities are known, to validate that the theoretically derived quantiles agree with those observed empirically. We included results from residual bootstrap for comparison and found good agreement. The validation employed several different models: Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), Mean Apparent Propagator MRI (MAP-MRI) and Constrained Spherical Deconvolution (CSD). We also used in vivo data to visualize maps of quantitative features and corresponding uncertainties, and to show how our approach can be used in a group analysis to downweight subjects with high uncertainty. In summary, we convert successful linear models for dMRI signal estimation to probabilistic models, capable of accurate uncertainty quantification.
Kurreck A, Vandergrift LA, Fuss TL, Habbel P, Agar NYR, Cheng LL. Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Characterization with Mass Spectrometry Imaging. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2018;21 (3) :297-305.Abstract
BACKGROUND: Prostate cancer (PCa), the most common cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in American men, presents the clinical challenge of distinguishing between indolent and aggressive tumors for proper treatment. PCa presents significant alterations in metabolic pathways that can potentially be measured using techniques like mass spectrometry (MS) or MS imaging (MSI) and used to characterize PCa aggressiveness. MS quantifies metabolomic, proteomic, and lipidomic profiles of biological systems that can be further visualized for their spatial distributions through MSI. METHODS: PubMed was queried for all publications relating to MS and MSI in human PCa from April 2007 to April 2017. With the goal of reviewing the utility of MSI in diagnosis and prognostication of human PCa, MSI articles that reported investigations of PCa-specific metabolites or metabolites indicating PCa aggressiveness were selected for inclusion. Articles were included that covered MS and MSI principles, limitations, and applications in PCa. RESULTS: We identified nine key studies on MSI in intact human prostate tissue specimens that determined metabolites which could either differentiate between benign and malignant prostate tissue or indicate PCa aggressiveness. These MSI-detected biomarkers show promise in reliably identifying PCa and determining disease aggressiveness. CONCLUSIONS: MSI represents an innovative technique with the ability to interrogate cancer biomarkers in relation to tissue pathologies and investigate tumor aggressiveness. We propose MSI as a powerful adjuvant histopathology imaging tool for prostate tissue evaluations, where clinical translation of this ex vivo technique could make possible the use of MSI for personalized medicine in diagnosis and prognosis of PCa. Moreover, the knowledge provided from this technique can majorly contribute to the understanding of molecular pathogenesis of PCa and other malignant diseases.
Sydnor VJ, Rivas-Grajales AM, Lyall AE, Zhang F, Bouix S, Karmacharya S, Shenton ME, Westin C-F, Makris N, Wassermann D, et al. A Comparison of Three Fiber Tract Delineation Methods and their Impact on White Matter Analysis. Neuroimage. 2018;178 :318-31.Abstract
Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) is an important method for studying white matter connectivity in the brain in vivo in both healthy and clinical populations. Improvements in dMRI tractography algorithms, which reconstruct macroscopic three-dimensional white matter fiber pathways, have allowed for methodological advances in the study of white matter; however, insufficient attention has been paid to comparing post-tractography methods that extract white matter fiber tracts of interest from whole-brain tractography. Here we conduct a comparison of three representative and conceptually distinct approaches to fiber tract delineation: 1) a manual multiple region of interest-based approach, 2) an atlas-based approach, and 3) a groupwise fiber clustering approach, by employing methods that exemplify these approaches to delineate the arcuate fasciculus, the middle longitudinal fasciculus, and the uncinate fasciculus in 10 healthy male subjects. We enable qualitative comparisons across methods, conduct quantitative evaluations of tract volume, tract length, mean fractional anisotropy, and true positive and true negative rates, and report measures of intra-method and inter-method agreement. We discuss methodological similarities and differences between the three approaches and the major advantages and drawbacks of each, and review research and clinical contexts for which each method may be most apposite. Emphasis is given to the means by which different white matter fiber tract delineation approaches may systematically produce variable results, despite utilizing the same input tractography and reliance on similar anatomical knowledge.
Machado I, Toews M, George E, Unadkat P, Essayed W, Luo J, Teodoro P, Carvalho H, Martins J, Golland P, et al. Deformable MRI-Ultrasound Registration using Correlation-based Attribute Matching for Brain Shift Correction: Accuracy and Generality in Multi-site Data. Neuroimage. 2019;202 :116094.Abstract
Intraoperative tissue deformation, known as brain shift, decreases the benefit of using preoperative images to guide neurosurgery. Non-rigid registration of preoperative magnetic resonance (MR) to intraoperative ultrasound (US) has been proposed as a means to compensate for brain shift. We focus on the initial registration from MR to predurotomy US. We present a method that builds on previous work to address the need for accuracy and generality of MR-iUS registration algorithms in multi-site clinical data. To improve accuracy of registration, we use high-dimensional texture attributes instead of image intensities and propose to replace the standard difference-based attribute matching with correlation-based attribute matching. We also present a strategy that deals explicitly with the large field-of-view mismatch between MR and iUS images. We optimize key parameters across independent MR-iUS brain tumor datasets acquired at three different institutions, with a total of 43 tumor patients and 758 corresponding landmarks to validate the registration algorithm. Despite differences in imaging protocols, patient demographics and landmark distributions, our algorithm was able to reduce landmark errors prior to registration in three data sets (5.37 ± 4.27, 4.18 ± 1.97 and 6.18 ± 3.38 mm, respectively) to a consistently low level (2.28 ± 0.71, 2.08 ± 0.37 and 2.24 ± 0.78 mm, respectively). Our algorithm is compared to 15 other algorithms that have been previously tested on MR-iUS registration and it is competitive with the state-of-the-art on multiple datasets. We show that our algorithm has one of the lowest errors in all datasets (accuracy), and this is achieved while sticking to a fixed set of parameters for multi-site data (generality). In contrast, other algorithms/tools of similar performance need per-dataset parameter tuning (high accuracy but lower generality), and those that stick to fixed parameters have larger errors or inconsistent performance (generality but not the top accuracy). We further characterized landmark errors according to brain regions and tumor types, a topic so far missing in the literature. We found that landmark errors were higher in high-grade than low-grade glioma patients, and higher in tumor regions than in other brain regions.
Basu SS, Regan MS, Randall EC, Abdelmoula WM, Clark AR, Gimenez-Cassina Lopez B, Cornett DS, Haase A, Santagata S, Agar NYR. Rapid MALDI Mass Spectrometry Imaging for Surgical Pathology. NPJ Precis Oncol. 2019;3 :17.Abstract
Matrix assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI MSI) is an emerging analytical technique, which generates spatially resolved proteomic and metabolomic images from tissue specimens. Conventional MALDI MSI processing and data acquisition can take over 30 min, limiting its clinical utility for intraoperative diagnostics. We present a rapid MALDI MSI method, completed under 5 min, including sample preparation and analysis, providing a workflow compatible with the clinical frozen section procedure.
Frisken S, Luo M, Machado I, Unadkat P, Juvekar P, Bunevicius A, Toews M, Wells WM, Miga MI, Golby AJ. Preliminary Results Comparing Thin Plate Splines with Finite Element Methods for Modeling Brain Deformation during Neurosurgery using Intraoperative Ultrasound. Proc SPIE Int Soc Opt Eng. 2019;10951.Abstract
Brain shift compensation attempts to model the deformation of the brain which occurs during the surgical removal of brain tumors to enable mapping of presurgical image data into patient coordinates during surgery and thus improve the accuracy and utility of neuro-navigation. We present preliminary results from clinical tumor resections that compare two methods for modeling brain deformation, a simple thin plate spline method that interpolates displacements and a more complex finite element method (FEM) that models physical and geometric constraints of the brain and its material properties. Both methods are driven by the same set of displacements at locations surrounding the tumor. These displacements were derived from sets of corresponding matched features that were automatically detected using the SIFT-Rank algorithm. The deformation accuracy was tested using a set of manually identified landmarks. The FEM method requires significantly more preprocessing than the spline method but both methods can be used to model deformations in the operating room in reasonable time frames. Our preliminary results indicate that the FEM deformation model significantly out-performs the spline-based approach for predicting the deformation of manual landmarks. While both methods compensate for brain shift, this work suggests that models that incorporate biophysics and geometric constraints may be more accurate.