Surgical Resection for Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma: A Systematic Review

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Background: Primary central nervous system lymphomas (PCNSLs) account for 1%–2% of primary central nervous system tumors. Until recently, treatment has centered on biopsy, radiotherapy, and high-dose methotrexate, without a clear role for cytoreductive surgery. The objective of this article is to compare the impact of biopsy versus cytoreductive surgery in outcomes of patients with PCNSL, including postoperative complications and survival. Methods: We performed a systematic review of literature published from January 1, 1968 to May 2, 2018 related to PCNSL treatment in patients undergoing biopsy or resection. Data on morbidity, progression-free survival, and overall survival were extracted and analyzed. Results: A total of 1291 nonduplicate citations were identified, with 244 articles selected for full-text review. Twenty-four articles were included for data abstraction including 2 level IIb studies, 4 level IIIb studies, and the remaining 18 articles representing level IVb studies. Of these articles, 15 failed to show benefit with cytoreductive surgery; most of these articles included relatively small sample sizes and predated standardization of high-dose systemic methotrexate treatment. Larger, more recent series included 9 articles providing evidence in support of cytoreductive surgery. Patient age, functional status, and treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiation were associated with improved survival across studies. Conclusions: The treatment of PCNSL is challenging and ever-evolving. Earlier, smaller studies failed to show the benefit of cytoreductive surgery over biopsy in patients with PCNSL. Larger, more recent series seem to show the possible benefit of cytoreductive surgery in PCNSL. Future well-designed prospective studies may help further elucidate the role of resection in the modern treatment of PCNSL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalWorld neurosurgery
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Biopsy
  • Cytoreductive surgery
  • Primary central nervous system lymphoma
  • Resection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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