Background. There is controversy about extensive surgical treatment for a malignant astrocytic tumour in more elderly patients who may have poorer outcomes and higher complication rates. This retrospective study investigated outcome in elderly patients with malignant astrocytic tumour before and after the adoption of routine clinical use of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. Methods. During 1982 through 1999, 88 patients with malignant astrocytic tumour aged 60 years or over were treated in our institute. Thirty-seven patients had an anaplastic astrocytoma and 51 had a glioblastoma. Thirty-seven patients treated from 1982 to 1988 did not have pre-operative evaluation by MR imaging (Group A), 26 patients treated from 1989 to 1995 had preoperative MR imaging evaluation (Group B), and 25 patients treated after 1996 underwent preoperative MR imaging with functional brain mapping and intra-operative navigation system monitoring (Group C). Findings. The median survival time was 8.8 months in Group A, 12.7 months in Group B, and 17.6 months in Group C. Patients with glioblastoma in Group B (11.7 months, n = 15) and Group C (16.0 months, n = 19) had significantly longer median survival time than in Group A (6 months, n = 17) (P = 0.0054 between Groups A and B, P = 0.0024 between Groups A and C). Better preoperative performance status, more thorough surgical resection, and better performance status after the initial treatment was obtained after the introduction of MR imaging, and patients with the optimal indicators showed significantly longer survival time compared with the patients without these factors. Interpretation. Pre-operative MR imaging may contribute to longer survival time by providing an earlier diagnosis in patients with better performance status, by allowing more thorough surgical resection, and resulting in better performance status after the treatment.
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