Document Detail

Preventive neurosurgery: population-wide check-up examinations and correction of asymptomatic pathologies of the nervous system.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  16944049     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
BACKGROUND: Prevention in healthcare is attracting more and more attention. Early identification and correction of anomalies harbouring the risk of a catastrophic event such as aneurysms is the principal rationale for brain check-up programmes. The other aim of preventive screening is to identify progressive lesions with little reversibility such as gliomas. The purpose of the current analysis is to review the frequency of the various incidental findings, the inherent risk and the therapeutic options. RATIONALE FOR CHECK-UP IMAGING AND PREVENTIVE TREATMENT: The average prevalence of asymptomatic intracranial benign tumours, aneurysms and carotid stenoses must be estimated as approximately 1% each. Meningiomas, aneurysms and carotid stenosis become more frequent with increasing age. Mainly vascular anomalies harbour a risk of a catastrophic event, i.e. carotid stenosis and intracranial aneurysms. Only gliomas potentially lose reversibility with time passing. The case of glioma appears to be lost since asymptomatic gliomas are extremely rarely identified on screening examinations, and on the other hand current treatment series do not support that infiltrating gliomas can be cured if only treated early enough. Treatment of the benign tumours, hydrocephalus and arachnoid cysts in the asymptomatic stage does not appear to provide any benefit. RATIONALE FOR GENETIC SCREENING: A number of intracranial tumours, vascular anomalies and degenerative changes are genetically determined. Examples are neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, von Hippel-Lindau disease and Rendu-Osler's disease. Although familial clustering of aneurysms is well known, the exact genetic anomaly is unknown and probably several genes play a role. Because of the variable penetrance of the inherited disorders with known genetic alterations, screening of affected families is recommended. The conditions are too rare to justify screening of the entire population. Apolipoprotein E genotype is the only accepted predictor of dementia. Routine screening APOE may be considered today, but is highly problematic due to the lack of clear consequences and the potentially negative psychological impact.
COSTS: Implementation of population-wide screening programmes and preventive measures would lead to a substantial additional financial burden. Brain-check-up programmes cannot be considered in isolation. Cardiovascular and oncological programmes would also have to be included from that point of view.
CONCLUSIONS: Population-wide screening with regard to intracranial aneurysms or carotid stenosis with non-invasive imaging techniques and preventive surgery/endovascular therapy can be justified, provided that treatment-associated morbidity is very low. There is no evidence for the rationale of screening for asymptomatic intracranial tumours, cysts or hydrocephalus. Genetic screening cannot be generally recommended, except among families affected by inherited conditions.
H-J Steiger
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Review     Date:  2006-09-08
Journal Detail:
Title:  Acta neurochirurgica     Volume:  148     ISSN:  0001-6268     ISO Abbreviation:  Acta Neurochir (Wien)     Publication Date:  2006 Oct 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2006-09-25     Completed Date:  2007-03-20     Revised Date:  2011-08-25    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0151000     Medline TA:  Acta Neurochir (Wien)     Country:  Austria    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  1075-83; discussion 1083     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
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MeSH Terms
Brain Diseases / complications,  diagnosis*,  prevention & control*
Cost-Benefit Analysis
Incidental Findings
Mass Screening / adverse effects*,  economics
Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects*,  economics
Reproducibility of Results
Risk Assessment
Treatment Outcome

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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