Effects of resective surgery for left-sided intracranial tumours on language function: a prospective study

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Background Although language disorders occur in about 50% of patients with a left hemispheric tumour and are a significant cause of morbidity, the effects of resective neurosurgery and their relation to tumour pathology are unclear.We report the immediate effects of resective surgery on language functions in a heterogeneous group of patients with left-sided intracranial tumours.

Methods 40 patients were studied.The Western Aphasia Battery (WAB) and Boston Naming Test (BNT) were administered preoperatively and before discharge following resective neurosurgery. Dexamethasone dose at time of testing was recorded, as was time taken to complete the tests, and tumour neuropathology.

Findings 15 patients with normal aphasia quotients and language quotients before resective surgery all had normal quotients postoperatively.25 who were dysphasic (ie, aphasia quotient <93.8) preoperatively showed significant postoperative improvements in both their mean aphasia quotient (from 81.8 to 89.1, p=0.004) and their mean language quotient (from 73.4 to 85.4, p=0.001), though 13 remained dysphasic. Two of the 25 dysphasic patients had their WAB scores lowered by tumour resection. The findings and postoperative changes in BNT scores were almost identical to the pattern of those in WAB scores. At second assessment, dexamethasone therapy was significantly (p<0.01) lower than preoperative dose (reduction from mean 10.3 mg/day to 0.7 mg/day in the dysphasic group). Patients with glioblastoma were more likely to have lower aphasia quotients, language quotients, and BNT scores than patients with anaplastic glioma, metastasis, or meningioma. Although the glioblastoma group had the greatest improvements in WAB operative scores, 57% remained dysphasic after resective surgery. Two additional patients declined postoperative assessment.

Interpretation Resective surgery for left-sided intracranial tumours significantly improves language function in dysphasic patients, and is unlikely to impair language functions in non-dysphasic patients. Dysphasia and its response to resective surgery are related to the tumour neuropathology.

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