High-resolution diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging of the brainstem safe entry zones

Debraj Mukherjee, Veysel Antar, Burcak Soylemez, Ulas Cikla, Bora Gürer, Mehmet A. Ekici, Aaron S. Field, M. Shahriar Salamat, Mustafa K. Başkaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Operative management of intrinsic brainstem lesions remains challenging despite advances in electrophysiological monitoring, neuroimaging, and neuroanatomical knowledge. Surgical intervention in this region requires detailed knowledge of adjacent critical white matter tracts, brainstem nuclei, brainstem vessels, and risks associated with each surgical approach. Our aim was to systematically verify internal anatomy associated with each brainstem safety entry zone (BSEZ) via neuroimaging modalities commonly used in pre-operative planning, namely high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor tractography (DTT). Twelve BSEZs were simulated in eight, formalin-fixed, cadaveric brains. Specimens then underwent radiological investigation including T2-weighted imaging and DTT using 4.7 T MRI to verify internal anatomic relationships between simulated BSEZs and adjacent critical white matter tracts and nuclei. The distance between simulated BSEZs and pre-defined, adjacent critical structures was systemically recorded. Entry points and anatomic limits on the surface of the brainstem are described for each BSEZ, along with description of potential neurological sequelae if such limits are violated. With high-resolution imaging, we verified a maximal depth for each BSEZ. The relationship between proposed safe entry corridors and adjacent critical structures within the brainstem is quantified. In combination with tissue dissection, high-resolution MR diffusion tensor imaging allows the surgeon to develop a better understanding of the internal architecture of the brainstem, particularly as related to BSEZs, prior to surgical intervention. Through a careful study of such imaging and use of optimal surgical corridors, a more accurate and safe surgery of brainstem lesions may be achieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-167
Number of pages15
JournalNeurosurgical Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Brainstem
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Microsurgical anatomy
  • Safe entry zone
  • Surgical approaches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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