Open Access Open Badges Research article

Retrospective analysis of 104 histologically proven adult brainstem gliomas: clinical symptoms, therapeutic approaches and prognostic factors

Thomas Reithmeier14*, Aanyo Kuzeawu2, Bettina Hentschel3, Markus Loeffler3, Michael Trippel4 and Guido Nikkhah45

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurosurgery, Schwabing Academic Teaching Hospital, Munich, Germany

2 Service de Neurochirurgie, Hopital Louis Pasteur, Colmar, France

3 Institute for Medical Informatics, Statistics and Epidemiology, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

4 Division of Stereotactic Neurosurgery, Department of General Neurosurgery, University Freiburg – Medical Centre, Freiburg, Germany

5 Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital, Erlangen, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:115  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-115

Published: 21 February 2014



Adult brainstem gliomas are rare primary brain tumors (<2% of gliomas). The goal of this study was to analyze clinical, prognostic and therapeutic factors in a large series of histologically proven brainstem gliomas.


Between 1997 and 2007, 104 patients with a histologically proven brainstem glioma were retrospectively analyzed. Data about clinical course of disease, neuropathological findings and therapeutic approaches were analyzed.


The median age at diagnosis was 41 years (range 18-89 years), median KPS before any operative procedure was 80 (range 20-100) and median survival for the whole cohort was 18.8 months. Histopathological examinations revealed 16 grade I, 31 grade II, 42 grade III and 14 grade IV gliomas. Grading was not possible in 1 patient. Therapeutic concepts differed according to the histopathology of the disease. Median overall survival for grade II tumors was 26.4 months, for grade III tumors 12.9 months and for grade IV tumors 9.8 months. On multivariate analysis the relative risk to die increased with a KPS ≤ 70 by factor 6.7, with grade III/IV gliomas by the factor 1.8 and for age ≥ 40 by the factor 1.7. External beam radiation reduced the risk to die by factor 0.4.


Adult brainstem gliomas present with a wide variety of neurological symptoms and postoperative radiation remains the cornerstone of therapy with no proven benefit of adding chemotherapy. Low KPS, age ≥ 40 and higher tumor grade have a negative impact on overall survival.

Brainstem glioma; Adult; Neuropathology; Stereotactic surgery