Following the light in glioma surgery: A comparison of sodium fluorescein and 5-aminolevulinic acid as surgical adjuncts in glioma resection

Jorge Navarro-Bonnet, Paola Suarez-Meade, Desmond A. Brown, Kaisorn L. Chaichana, Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Gliomas are molecularly complex neoplasms and require a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. Maximal safe resection is often the initial goal of treatment and extent of resection (EOR) is an important prognostic factor correlating with both progression-free-survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS). Postoperative patient outcome is also a critical and independent prognosticator and high EOR must not be achieved at the expense of good functional outcome. Several intraoperative adjuvant techniques have been developed to help the surgeon push the boundaries of EOR while maintaining safety. Fluorescence-guided surgery for brain tumors is a contemporary adjuvant technique that allows for intraoperative delineation of diseased and normal brain thus improving maximal safe resection. The most extensively used fluorophores are 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) and sodium fluorescein (SFL). These fluorophores have different spectrophotometric properties, mechanisms of action and considerations for use. Both have demonstrated utility in neurosurgical oncology. They are safe and both are FDA approved for use as surgical adjuncts during resection of primary CNS neoplasms although they have been used with varying success for other tumor types. When combined with other surgical adjuvant strategies such as neuronavigation, intraoperative ultrasound, intraoperative MRI, awake resection and/or electrophysiological mapping/monitoring, fluorescence-guided resection appears to further improve resection quality in regard to EOR and safety. In this article, we review the current knowledge related to both fluorophores for brain tumor resection, their benefits, and pitfalls, as well as the major advantages associated with their use. We also briefly review additional fluorophores in early clinical development. Fluorescence-guided surgery is a novel surgical adjuvant which allows for real-time delineation of neoplastic tissues. The most widely used fluorophores are 5-ALA and SFL. They are safe compounds and there is a large body of evidence suggesting improvement in EOR when these are employed. There are nuances to the use of each; the fluorescence intensity is dose-dependent in either case and the sensitivity and specificity for various tumors vary widely. Additional prospective studies will be necessary to parse the impact of this technique and these fluorophores on survival metrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-647
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of neurosurgical sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019


  • Aminolevulinic acid
  • Bioluminescence resonance energy transfer techniques
  • Brain neoplasms
  • Fluorescein
  • Glioma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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