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Low-Grade Astrocytoma Medication

  • Author: George I Jallo, MD; Chief Editor: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS  more...
Updated: Oct 27, 2014

Medication Summary

No specific drugs are recommended for treatment of low-grade glioma; however, certain conditions (in the setting of low-grade astrocytoma) typically require treatment. For seizures, the patient usually is started on phenytoin or carbamazepine. Vasogenic edema around the tumor typically is treated with steroids. When administering steroids, typically some form of antiulcer agent is used.



Class Summary

These agents are used to treat and prevent seizures.

Phenytoin (Dilantin)


In general, acts to block sodium channels and prevent repetitive firing of action potentials. As such, is very effective anticonvulsant. First-line drug in partial and generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Carbamazepine (Tegretol)


Like phenytoin, acts by interacting with sodium channels and blocking repetitive neuronal firing. First-line drug in partial seizures and may be used for tonic-clonic seizures as well. Serum levels should be checked.

Levetiracetam (Keppra)


Used as adjunct therapy for partial seizures and myoclonic seizures. Also indicated for primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures. Mechanism of action is through modulation of neurotransmitter release through binding to the synaptic vesicle protein SV2A in the brain.



Class Summary

These agents reduce edema around the tumor, frequently leading to symptomatic and objective improvement.

Dexamethasone (Decadron, AK-Dex, Alba-Dex, Dexone, Baldex)


Postulated mechanisms of action of corticosteroids in brain tumors include reduction in vascular permeability, cytotoxic effects on tumors, inhibition of tumor formation, and decreased CSF production.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

George I Jallo, MD Professor of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Oncology, Director, Clinical Pediatric Neurosurgery, Department of Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

George I Jallo, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgeons

Disclosure: Received grant/research funds from Codman (Johnson & Johnson) for consulting; Received grant/research funds from Medtronic for consulting.


Eveline Teresa Hidalgo Staub, MD Neurosurgery Attending, Division of Neurosurgery, General and Pediatric Neurosurgery, Luzerner Kantonsspital

Eveline Teresa Hidalgo Staub, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Swiss Society of Neurosurgery, Swiss Young Neurosurgeons Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

David A Chesler, MD, PhD Clinical and Research Fellow, Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

David A Chesler, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American Medical Association, Congress of Neurological Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Rafael Uribe-Cardenas, MD Resident Physician in Neurosurgery, Department of Neuroscience, Hospital Universitario San Ignacio, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia

Rafael Uribe-Cardenas, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Colombian Association of Neurosurgery

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Jorge C Kattah, MD Head, Associate Program Director, Professor, Department of Neurology, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria

Jorge C Kattah, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Neurological Association, New York Academy of Sciences

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS Professor Emeritus of Neurology and Psychiatry, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Clinical Professor of Family Medicine, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery, State University of New York Upstate Medical University; Neuroscience Director, Department of Neurology, Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital

Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of International Physicians, American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pain Medicine, American College of Forensic Examiners Institute, National Association of Managed Care Physicians, American College of Physicians, Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal Society of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Rodrigo O Kuljis, MD Esther Lichtenstein Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology, Director, Division of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, Department of Neurology, University of Miami School of Medicine

Rodrigo O Kuljis, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, Society for Neuroscience

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Ethan A Benardete, MD, PhD Staff Physician, Department of Neurosurgery, New York University Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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A 28-year-old male taxi driver presented to the emergency department after having a seizure. Noncontrast head CT scan was obtained showing the typical appearance of a low-grade astrocytoma. The lesion in the mesial left frontal lobe was hypodense on CT scan.
Preoperative MRI of the brain of a 28-year-old male taxi driver who presented to the emergency department after having a seizure. On T1-weighted sequences, the tumor does not enhance and shows decreased signal intensity compared to normal brain. These findings are consistent with low-grade astrocytoma.
For tumors, MRI has the advantage of showing the lesion in multiple planes. This image, a T1-weighted sagittal image of the brain of a 28-year-old male taxi driver who presented to the emergency department after having a seizure, shows the tumor along the mesial aspect of the frontal lobe. Note that mass effect is minimal, typical of a low-grade lesion.
T2-weighted sequences of an MRI of the brain of a 28-year-old male taxi driver who presented to the emergency department after having a seizure show increased signal intensity compared with normal brain. The radiologic appearance is typical of low-grade astrocytoma.
A 9-year-old boy presented with headaches and gradual onset of right hemiparesis. MRI of the brain was obtained. The T2-weighted sequence in this MRI shows a tumor in the left thalamus, which is a typical location for a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma. Note the relatively well-circumscribed nature of the lesion.
Coronal T1-weighted gadolinium-enhanced MRI of the brain shows the tumor of a 9-year-old boy who presented with headaches and gradual onset of a right hemiparesis. Note the heterogeneous enhancement of the tumor.
Sagittal T1-weighted MRI of the brain shows juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma of a 9-year-old boy who presented with headaches and gradual onset of right hemiparesis. Stereotactic surgery has made resection of these low-grade tumors in this deep location feasible.
A 3-year-old boy presented with speech regression. MRI of the brain revealed a tumor in the left mesial temporal lobe. This T1-weighted gadolinium-enhanced image shows an enhancing tumor involving the hippocampus, uncus, and amygdala. The surgical pathologic studies revealed a low-grade mixed tumor of astrocytes and atypical neurons, a ganglioglioma.
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