Doctors should operate meningiomas even in elderly patients – Innovita Research

Doctors should operate meningiomas even in elderly patients

Meningioma is a type of a benign brain tumour, originating in meninges surrounding the brain. In older patients meningiomas are usually not operated, because surgeries might be painful and potentially dangerous for older people. However, a new study from the University of Helsinki revealed that meningioma can increase life expectancy and improve the quality of life even in older people.

Meningioma is a benign brain tumor, which originates in the meninges surrounding the brain. In older patients it is usually left alone, since it is not really life-threatening. Image credit: Michel Royon via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Older people typically have health issues, which make surgical operations tricky and potentially dangerous. Meningioma surgery is, therefore, avoided almost everywhere in the world, when the patient is around 80 years of age. What’s the point in operating a benign tumour, when the patient is in the later years of his life? We need to be realistic and try to minimize risks and suffering for older people. However, scientists in Finland analysed all meningioma patients 80 years of age or older treated in the country and found that carefully considered surgical treatment is actually beneficial even for the older brain.

Anaesthesia and surgery itself does put the body through some additional stress. Complications of  meningioma surgery can be  very severe. However, even though that is a benign tumour, it does put pressure on some brain regions, costing years of healthy life and interfering with normal brain function. That is why scientists believe that in some cases meningioma surgery should be considered even for patients of 80 years or older. This study showed that meningioma surgery improves  the quality of life of elderly people in good health and adds to their lifespan. In other words, there are cases when surgical treatment should be considered, regardless of the patient’s age.

Miikka Korja, supervisor of the study, said: “These are demanding operations with a high risk of complications. This is why we have had to consider, on a case-by-case basis, whether these relatively fragile elderly persons are able to tolerate such a surgery, which is stressful and demanding for the body, or whether we are ultimately causing more harm than good.” Each patient should be evaluated separately and the older age should not be considered as an absolute determining factor for a safe surgery.

Losing functional capacity of the brain in the later years of one’s life is terribly debilitating. While benign, meningioma can still limit the brain's capacity for some tasks and doctors need to take it seriously, even if the patient is of older age. Removing the tumour may make for several more years of life with better quality and cognitive capabilities. But each case is different and it is ultimately the doctor's decision which route is going to produce the best results for the patient.


Source: University of Helsinki