Low-Grade Astrocytoma Follow-up

Updated: Aug 04, 2022
  • Author: George I Jallo, MD; Chief Editor: Stephen L Nelson, Jr, MD, PhD, FAACPDM, FAAN, FAAP, FANA  more...
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Further Outpatient Care

In medically stable patients in whom no inpatient workup is required, follow-up can be done by a neurosurgeon in conjunction with a neurologist and neuro-oncologist. Some lesions might be followed in time without the need for an active acute intervention (e.g. tectal gliomas specially if found incidentally).

Patients who have received some form of treatment (surgery, chemo/radiation therapy) and are medically stable to continue treatment on an outpatient basis will need serial imaging periodically as well as additional forms of therapy like physical and occupational depending on their individual circumstances.

Patients with programable ventricular shunts should be advised that after every follow-up MRI they should have their shunt settings revised to avoid complications from under or overdrainage of CSF resulting from inadvertent shunt reprogramming.


Further Inpatient Care

The type of treatment as well as the clinical course of each patient will vary depending on the type of tumor and the neurologic status upon admission. Patients with localized lesions in surgically accessible areas and with no neurologic deficits might be scheduled electively. These patients will be admitted to the hospital on the same day of surgery and will typically be discharged three or four days after the procedure. Similarly, patients with unresectable tumors might be admitted for surgical biopsy which depending on location can be done using stereotactic techniques. These patients will also be discharged after a few days and depending on the final pathology report will be referred for any additional consults on the outpatient clinic.

Patients who present to the emergency department might require special treatment for the management of related complications like seizures (including status epilepticus) and intracranial hypertension. These conditions might require IV use of anti epileptic medications, intracranial pressure monitoring, external ventricular drain placement and even emergent surgical resection or decompression in cases of acute herniation. Although low-grade astrocytomas usually present with a more indolent course, some tumors might grow considerably before detection until patients present with acute deterioration or worsening symptoms. In cases like these patients might require transfer to an intensive care unit for specialized treatment and monitoring.


Inpatient & Outpatient Medications

As described above, an anticonvulsant (if seizures are present) and dexamethasone (if edema is significant) are continued on an inpatient or outpatient basis. In addition, antiulcer medication is given with the corticosteroid for GI prophylaxis.



At some institutions, transferring the patient to another facility may be necessary if the proper consultations cannot be obtained. Particularly in patients with significant hydrocephalus, transfer to a facility with neurosurgical coverage is indicated. However, in patients with no hydrocephalus, surgery can be scheduled on an elective, but preferably urgent, basis.



As already discussed, prognosis greatly depends on the pathology of the tumor. Taking many published series together, median survival duration is approximately 7.5 years. However, patients with pilocytic astrocytomas who undergo gross total resection can expect a cure. For low-grade astrocytomas that continue their relentless slow growth, progressive neurologic deficit may occur over a period of years.

In a large, multi-institutional study of patients with low-grade gliomas, Chang et al found that the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) preoperative scoring system accurately predicted overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS). The 537 patients in the study were assigned a prognostic score based upon the sum of points assigned to the presence of each of the 4 following factors: (1) location of tumor in presumed eloquent cortex, (2) Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) Score ≤80, (3) age >50 years, and (4) maximum diameter >4 cm. Stratification of patients based on scores generated groups (0-4) with statistically different OS and PFS estimates (p < 0.0001). The 5-year cumulative OS probabilities stratified by score group were as follows: score of 0, 0.98; score of 1, 0.90; score of 2, 0.81; score of 3, 0.53; and score of 4, 0.46. [17]

The molecular classification of low-grade diffuse gliomas [18] has shown that some mutations correlate with survival. The median survival of patients with TP53 mutation with or without IDH1/2 mutation was significantly shorter than that for patients with 1p/19q loss with or without IDH1/2 mutation. Multivariate analysis with adjustment for age and treatment confirmed these results and revealed that TP53 mutation is a significant prognostic marker for shorter survival and 1p/19q loss for longer survival, while IDH1/2 mutations are not prognostic.

For the pediatric population the prognosis is different. In cases of complete resection prognosis tends to be very good and close to complete cure with need for strict follow-up only. In cases of tumor remnant or inability to perform surgical resection (ie, deep-seated lesions), the mortality tends to occur either from tumor-related factors or treatment morbidity. In one summary [61] , researchers found that during a 30-year period the mortality rate was 12%, with a median time to death from diagnosis of 4.02 years (range, 0.21–24 years). Yet, their study mixed different kinds of tumors. In the case of tumor harbor BRAF mutation, we have an efficient tool that can either treat the lesion for complete resolution or reduce its size making it amenable to safer resection. Study is still ongoing in this regard.