Preoperative Functional MRI Use in Neurooncology Patients: A Clinician Survey


Brittany M Stopa, Joeky T Senders, Marike LD Broekman, Mark Vangel, and Alexandra J Golby. 2020. “Preoperative Functional MRI Use in Neurooncology Patients: A Clinician Survey.” Neurosurg Focus, 48, 2, Pp. E11. Copy at


OBJECTIVE: Functional MRI (fMRI) is increasingly being investigated for use in neurosurgical patient care. In the current study, the authors characterize the clinical use of fMRI by surveying neurosurgeons' use of and attitudes toward fMRI as a surgical planning tool in neurooncology patients. METHODS: A survey was developed to inquire about clinicians' use of and experiences with preoperative fMRI in the neurooncology patient population, including example case images. The survey was distributed to all neurosurgical departments with a residency program in the US. RESULTS: After excluding incomplete surveys and responders that do not use fMRI (n = 11), 50 complete responses were included in the final analysis. Responders were predominantly from academic programs (88%), with 20 years or more in practice (40%), with a main area of practice in neurooncology (48%) and treating an adult population (90%). All 50 responders currently use fMRI in neurooncology patients, mostly for low- (94%) and high-grade glioma (82%). The leading decision factors for ordering fMRI were location of mass in dominant hemisphere, location in a functional area, motor symptoms, and aphasia. Across 10 cases, language fMRI yielded the highest interrater reliability agreement (Fleiss' kappa 0.437). The most common reasons for ordering fMRI were to identify language laterality, plan extent of resection, and discuss neurological risks with patients. Clinicians reported that fMRI results were not obtained when ordered a median 10% of the time and were suboptimal a median 27% of the time. Of responders, 70% reported that they had ever resected an fMRI-positive functional site, of whom 77% did so because the site was "cleared" by cortical stimulation. Responders reported disagreement between fMRI and awake surgery 30% of the time. Overall, 98% of responders reported that if results of fMRI and intraoperative mapping disagreed, they would rely on intraoperative mapping. CONCLUSIONS: Although fMRI is increasingly being adopted as a practical preoperative planning tool for brain tumor resection, there remains a substantial degree of discrepancy with regard to its current use and presumed utility. There is a need for further research to evaluate the use of preoperative fMRI in neurooncology patients. As fMRI continues to gain prominence, it will be important for clinicians to collectively share best practices and develop guidelines for the use of fMRI in the preoperative planning phase of brain tumor patients.
Last updated on 12/14/2020