• Vol. 36 No. 5, 319–325
  • 15 May 2007

Anaesthetic Management of Awake Craniotomy for Tumour Resection



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Introduction: Awake craniotomy allows accurate localisation of the eloquent brain, which is crucial during brain tumour resection in order to minimise risk of neurologic injury. The role of the anaesthesiologist is to provide adequate analgesia and sedation while maintaining ventilation and haemodynamic stability in an awake patient who needs to be cooperative during neurological testing. We reviewed the anaesthetic management of patients undergoing an awake craniotomy procedure. Materials and Methods: The records of all the patients who had an awake craniotomy at our institution from July 2004 till June 2006 were reviewed. The anaesthesia techniques and management were examined. The perioperative complications and the outcome of the patients were noted. Results: There were 17 procedures carried out during the study period. Local anaesthesia with moderate to deep sedation was the technique used in all the patients. Respiratory complications occurred in 24% of the patients. Hypertension was observed in 24% of the patients. All the complications were transient and easily treated. During cortical stimulation, motor function was assessed in 16 patients (94%). Three patients (16%) had lesions in the temporalparietal region and speech was assessed intraoperatively. Postoperative motor weakness was seen in 1 patient despite uneventful intraoperative testing. No patient required intensive care unit stay. The median length of stay in the high dependency unit was 1 day and the median length of hospital stay was 9 days. There was no in-hospital mortality. Conclusion: Awake craniotomy for brain tumour excision can be successfully performed under good anaesthetic conditions with careful titration of sedation. Our series showed it to be a well-tolerated procedure with a low rate of complications. The benefits of maximal tumour excision can be achieved, leading to potentially better patient outcome.

Historically, surgery for intractable epilepsy was performed with the patient awake for at least some part of the procedure to facilitate cortical mapping and satisfactory, safe excision of the epileptogenic focus. Awake craniotomy for resection of brain tumours is a less common but increasingly performed operation. While the availability of modern frameless stereotaxic and neuronavigational guidance systems has made intraoperative tumour localisation more precise, it cannot replace awake intraoperative neurological testing. By performing the resection with the patient awake, aggressive and potentially total gross tumour resection under the operating microscope may be possible and at the same time minimise damage to the eloquent cortex.

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