Visualization of Brain Tumors with Intraoperative Confocal Laser Endomicroscopy

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Intraoperative diagnosis in neurosurgery has traditionally relied on frozen and formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded section analysis of biopsied tissue samples. Although this technique is considered to be the “gold standard” for establishing

Intraoperative diagnosis in neurosurgery has traditionally relied on frozen and formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded section analysis of biopsied tissue samples. Although this technique is considered to be the “gold standard” for establishing a histopathologic diagnosis, it entails a number of significant limitations such as invasiveness and the time required for processing and interpreting the tissue. Rapid intraoperative diagnosis has become possible with a handheld confocal laser endomicroscopy (CLE) system. Combined with appropriate fluorescent stains or labels, CLE provides an imaging technique for real-time intraoperative visualization of histopathologic features of the suspected tumor and healthy tissues.

This thesis scrutinizes CLE technology for its ability to provide real-time intraoperative in vivo and ex vivo visualization of histopathological features of the normal and tumor brain tissues. First, the optimal settings for CLE imaging are studied in an animal model along with a generational comparison of CLE performance. Second, the ability of CLE to discriminate uninjured normal brain, injured normal brain and tumor tissues is demonstrated. Third, CLE was used to investigate cerebral microvasculature and blood flow in normal and pathological conditions. Fourth, the feasibility of CLE for providing optical biopsies of brain tumors was established during the fluorescence-guided neurosurgical procedures. This study established the optimal workflow and confirmed the high specificity of the CLE optical biopsies. Fifth, the feasibility of CLE was established for endoscopic endonasal approaches and interrogation of pituitary tumor tissue. Finally, improved and prolonged near wide-field fluorescent visualization of brain tumor margins was demonstrated with a scanning fiber endoscopy and 5-aminolevulinic acid.

These studies suggested a novel paradigm for neurosurgery-pathology workflow when the noninvasive intraoperative optical biopsies are used to interrogate the tissue and augment intraoperative decision making. Such optical biopsies could shorten the time for obtaining preliminary information on the histological composition of the tissue of interest and may lead to improved diagnostics and tumor resection. This work establishes a basis for future in vivo optical biopsy use in neurosurgery and planning of patient-related outcome studies. Future studies would lead to refinement and development of new confocal scanning technologies making noninvasive optical biopsy faster, convenient and more accurate.