Feasibility of awake brain surgery in glioblastoma patients with severe aphasia: Five case illustrations

Marike Donders-Kamphuis*, Arnaud Vincent, Joost Schouten, Marion Smits, Christa Docter-Kerkhof, Clemens Dirven, Alfred Kloet, Rishi Nandoe Tewarie, Djaina Satoer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
427 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Traditionally, surgical removal of glioblastoma is performed with general anaesthesia but a recent meta-analysis revealed that awake surgery in glioblastoma resulted in better surgical outcomes than non-awake surgery. Preoperative severe aphasia is one of the exclusion criteria for awake surgery because of difficulties in intraoperative interpretation of language deterioration and the distinction between preoperative vs. intraoperative induced paraphasias. As severe aphasia is common in glioblastoma patients, many potential patients who may benefit from awake surgery are excluded. Aims: We aim to investigate the feasibility of awake surgery in glioblastoma patients with severe aphasia using a patient-tailored approach with adapted intraoperative language tasks. We also examined the effect of awake surgery on language outcomes. Methods & Procedures: We discuss five case studies of patients elected for awake surgery with presumed glioblastoma in eloquent language areas and severe aphasia. Pre- and postoperatively, an extensive test-protocol was administered at different linguistic levels and modalities. A patient-tailored intraoperative language test-protocol was applied. Outcomes & Results: Preoperatively, all patients had severe impairments on all language and cognitive tests. Intraoperative language tasks for direct electrical stimulation and resection were selected and adapted to patients’ preoperative level. Despite preoperative severe aphasia, functional boundaries for critical language areas could be identified in each patient. Postoperatively, all patients had stable or improved language outcome. One of the patients recovered to maximum scores on nearly all language tests. Conclusions: Our cases demonstrate that awake surgery in severely aphasic glioblastoma patients is feasible and did not cause further deterioration of aphasia. An extensive preoperative neurolinguistic examination is necessary for adequate patient-tailored intraoperative monitoring with maximal tumour resection and to consequently increase the chance of language preservation and quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1944-1963
Number of pages20
Issue number12
Early online date31 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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