The Risk of Peripheral Nerve Tumor Biopsy in Suspected Benign Etiologies

Roberto J. Perez-Roman, S. Shelby Burks, Luca Debs, Iahn Cajigas, Allan D. Levi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Peripheral nerve sheath tumors (PNSTs) are tumors with unique clinical and imaging features that present to a variety of physicians. These lesions are often referred for biopsy, which can put nerve fascicles at risk. Preoperative biopsy may cause distortion of normal anatomic planes, making definitive resection difficult. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the neurological risks of preoperative biopsy in benign PNSTs. METHODS: Surgical cases collected retrospectively using a prospectively established database of PNSTs treated by a single surgeon between 1997 and 2019. Patients were dichotomized depending on preoperative biopsy. The effects of biopsy were assessed via history and physical examination both pre- and postdefinitive resection. RESULTS: A total of 151 cases were included. Only 23.2% (35) of patients underwent preoperative biopsy, but 42.9% of these experienced new or worsening neurological examination immediately following biopsy. After definitive resection, the rate of neurological deficit was significantly different between the 2 groups with 60% of biopsy patients and 19% of those patients not biopsied experiencing decline in examination (F = 25.72, P <. 001). Odds ratio for any postoperative deficit for biopsy was 6.40 (CI [2.8, 14.55], P <. 001). Univariate logistic regression of neurological deficit with patient age, sex, tumor type, and biopsy status showed that only biopsy was associated with the occurrence of any postoperative deficit. CONCLUSION: Biopsy of benign PNSTs is associated with a high rate of neurological deficit both immediately following the procedure and after definitive resection. Careful selection is imperative prior to proceeding with biopsy of nerve sheath tumors exhibiting benign features given the unacceptably high rate of neurological decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E326-E332
JournalClinical Neurosurgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Biopsy
  • Imaging
  • Neurofibroma
  • Peripheral nerve
  • Schwannoma
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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