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Predicting Pituitary Stalk Position By In Vivo Visualization Of The Hypothalamo-hypophyseal Tract In Craniopharyngioma Using Diffusion Tensor Imaging Tractography

F. Wang, Jinli Jiang, J. Zhang, Q. Wang
Published 2017 · Medicine

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The pituitary stalk (PS) is crucial to endocrine function and water-electrolyte equilibrium. Preservation of the PS during craniopharyngioma (CP) surgery is critical; however, in a pathological state, it is difficult to identify. The hypothalamo-hypophyseal tract (HHT) connects the hypothalamus and the posterior pituitary gland and projects through the PS. Thus, visualization of the HHT can help locate the PS. Preoperative visualization of the neural fasciculus has been widely achieved using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography. Therefore, this study evaluated the use of DTI tractography to identify and characterize the human HHT. We used DTI tractography to track the HHT in 10 patients with CP and compared the location of the tract with the intraoperative view of the PS in these patients. We successfully tracked the HHT in nine patients, indicating that delineating and quantifying the tracked HHT using this method is feasible. In addition, we found that the tract was consistent with the intraoperative view of the PS in seven out of eight patients (87.50%). Finally, we found that the mean number of tracts was 7.11 ± 12.28, the mean fractional anisotropy (FA) was 0.11 ± 0.04, and the mean tract length was 24.22 ± 9.39 mm. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the HHT can be visualized and characterized with DTI even in a clinical application, which may aid in preoperative identification of the PS. Characterization of the tracked HHT with this technique could also be used to advance our understanding of the HHT.
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