Brain Neoplasms Treatment & Management

Updated: Nov 09, 2015
  • Author: Bruce M Lo, MD, MBA, CPE, RDMS, FACEP, FAAEM, FACHE; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Prehospital Care

Prehospital care is supportive and directed to the presenting symptom complex. For example, treat seizures in the usual manner. Airway disturbance, breathing difficulty, signs of pronounced elevation in intracranial pressure (ICP), and notable impairment of consciousness may necessitate definitive airway control with endotracheal intubation and, possibly, hyperventilation.


Emergency Department Care

Emergency department (ED) treatment of the patient with an intracerebral neoplasm depends on both the nature of the tumor and the general condition of the patient. Decisions regarding surgical resection, initiation of radiation treatment, and chemotherapy are beyond the scope of practice of the ED physician.

Corticosteroids may dramatically reduce signs and symptoms related to cerebral edema. Affected patients may experience relief within the first few hours of steroid therapy.

Dexamethasone is the agent of choice because of its minimal salt-retaining properties. Recommended doses generally range from 4-24 mg daily. For patients with impaired consciousness or signs of increased intracranial pressure (ICP), 10 mg IV [7] or 10-24 mg IV are recommended as the first dose. Side effects, notably proximal muscle weakness, are dose-dependent. Often, corticosteroids can be tapered or discontinued after definitive therapy. The final dose of steroids should be the lowest necessary to control the patient's neurologic symptoms.

For patients with signs or symptoms of impending herniation and airway compromise, consider use of adjunctive medications for rapid-sequence intubation. These might include lidocaine and medication for rapid-onset neuromuscular blockade, with precautions to diminish fasciculations. Induction agents, such as thiopental, may be used.

After definitive control of the airway, consider gentle hyperventilation.

Discuss the use of mannitol with the appropriate consultant. Although mannitol may reduce transiently lower ICP, concern about rebound increases in ICP makes its use problematic.



Local practice patterns govern requests for consultations. In addition, consider the following:

  • Generally, care of patients with a brain tumor is multidisciplinary, requiring assistance from a neurosurgeon, an oncologist, a radiologist, and an expert in radiation therapy.

  • Management varies greatly depending on tumor location, tissue type, and comorbid conditions.

  • Surgical treatment options may include tumor removal or debulking, installation of a ventricular shunt, and placement of radioactive implants.