Diagnosis and management of pineal tumors

Document Type





The management of pineal region tumors remains controversial. Advocates of a conservative approach emphasize the excellent results of radiotherapy, particularly with germinomas, while a number of recent reports have demonstrated the safety of direct surgery. In order to improve treatment planning, attempts have been made to distinguish the various tumor types by computerized tomography (CT) and by the use of markers for germ-cell tumors. This paper reports a study of 35 patients with pineal tumors including two ectopic germinomas. Pretreatment CT was performed in all 35 patients, and human chorionic gonadotropin and alpha-fetoprotein levels were assayed in 11. Histological verification was available for 33 tumors; the other two were characterized by clinical and CT features plus tumor markers. Of the 27 tumor operations, 21 were for a pineal mass and six for ectopic germinoma or metastasis. There was no operative mortality. Morbidity was minimal, and surgery did not increase the incidence of subarachnoid seeding. Each histological type of tumor has a typical appearance on CT scanning, although, in the individual case, a firm diagnosis is not always possible. However, consideration of CT scans together with the clinical features, cerebrospinal fluid cytology, tumor markers, and (if there is still doubt) response to a small dose of irradiation will generally allow a specific diagnosis with a high degree of probability. In this way, germinomas may be selected for radiotherapy and the tumors less likely to respond may be subjected to primary surgery.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of neurosurgery