Brain imaging before primary lung cancer resection: a controversial topic

20 Jun 2017
Zoe Hudson, Eveline Internullo, Anthony Edey, Isabel Laurence, Davide Bianchi, Alfredo Addeo

Objective: International and national recommendations for brain imaging in patients planned to undergo potentially curative resection of nonsmall-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are variably implemented throughout the United Kingdom [Hudson BJ, Crawford MB, and Curtin J et al (2015) Brain imaging in lung cancer patients without symptoms of brain metastases: a national survey of current practice in England Clin Radiol]. However, the recommendations are not based on high-quality evidence and do not take into account cost implications and local resources. Our aim was to determine local practice based on historic outcomes in this patient cohort.

Methods: This retrospective study took place in a regional thoracic surgical centre in the United Kingdom. Pathology records for all patients who had undergone lung resection with curative intent during the time period January 2012–December 2014 were analysed in October 2015. Electronic pathology and radiology reports were accessed for each patient and data collected about their histological findings, TNM stage, resection margins, and the presence of brain metastases on either pre-operative or post-operative imaging. From the dates given on imaging, we calculated the number of days post-resection that the brain metastases were detected.

Results: 585 patients were identified who had undergone resection of their lung cancer. Of these, 471 had accessible electronic radiology records to assess for the radiological evidence of brain metastases. When their electronic records were evaluated, 25/471 (5.3%) patients had radiological evidence of brain metastasis. Of these, five patients had been diagnosed with a brain metastasis at initial presentation and had undergone primary resection of the brain metastasis followed by resection of the lung primary. One patient had been diagnosed with both a primary lung and a primary bowel adenocarcinoma; on review of the case, it was felt that the brain metastasis was more likely to have originated from the bowel cancer. One had been clinically diagnosed with a cerebral abscess while the radiology had been reported as showing a metastatic deposit. Of the remaining 18/471 (3.8%) patients who presented with brain metastases after their surgical resection, 12 patients had adenocarcinoma, four patients had squamous cell carcinoma, one had basaloid, and one had large-cell neuroendocrine. The mean number of days post-resection that the brain metastases were identified was 371 days, range 14–1032 days, median 295 days (date of metastases not available for two patients).

Conclusion: The rate of brain metastases identified in this study was similar to previous studies. This would suggest that preoperative staging of the central nervous system may change the management pathway in a small group of patients. However, for this group of patients, the change would be significant either sparing them non-curative surgery or allowing aggressive management of oligometastatic disease. Therefore, we would recommend pre-operative brain imaging with MRI for all patients undergoing potentially curative lung resection.

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