A Randomized Trial of Surgery in the Treatment of Single Metastases to the Brain

Roy A. Patchell, Phillip A. Tibbs, John W. Walsh, Robert J. Dempsey, Yosh Maruyama, Richard J. Kryscio, William R. Markesbery, John S. Macdonald, Byron Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2648 Scopus citations


To assess the efficacy of surgical resection of brain metastases from extracranial primary cancer, we randomly assigned patients with a single brain metastasis to either surgical removal of the brain tumor followed by radiotherapy (surgical group) or needle biopsy and radiotherapy (radiation group). Forty-eight patients (25 in the surgical group and 23 in the radiation group) formed the study group; 6 other patients (11 percent) were excluded from the study because on biopsy their lesions proved to be either second primary tumors or inflammatory or infectious processes. Recurrence at the site of the original metastasis was less frequent in the surgical group than in the radiation group (5 of 25 [20 percent] vs. 12 of 23 [52 percent]; P<0.02). The overall length of survival was significantly longer in the surgical group (median, 40 weeks vs. 15 weeks in the radiation group; P<0.01), and the patients treated with surgery remained functionally independent longer (median, 38 weeks vs. 8 weeks in the radiation group; P<0.005). We conclude that patients with cancer and a single metastasis to the brain who receive treatment with surgical resection plus radiotherapy live longer, have fewer recurrences of cancer in the brain, and have a better quality of life than similar patients treated with radiotherapy alone. (N Engl J Med 1990; 322:494–500.).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-500
Number of pages7
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 22 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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