BACKGROUNDIt is often difficult to differentiate a recurrent glioma from the effects of post-operative radiotherapy by means of conventional neurodiagnostic imaging. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (1H-MRSI), that allows in vivo measurements of the concentration of brain metabolites such as choline-containing phospholipids (Cho), may provide in vivo biochemical information helpful in distinguishing areas of tumor recurrence from areas of radiation effect.PATIENTS AND METHODSTwo patients who had undergone resection and post-operative radiotherapy for a cerebral glioma became newly symptomatic. Computed tomographic (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed after the intravenous infusion of contrast material, and in one case, [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET), could not differentiate between the possibilities of recurrent glioma and radiation effect. The patients underwent 1H-MRSI prior to reoperation and the 1H-MRSI results were compared to histological findings originating from the same locations.RESULTSA high Cho signal measured by 1H-MRSI was seen in areas of histologically-proven dense tumor recurrence, while low Cho signal was present where radiation changes predominated.CONCLUSIONSThe differentiation between the recurrence of a cerebral glioma and the effects of post-operative irradiation was achieved using 1H-MRSI in these two patients whose conventional neurodiagnostic imaging was equivocal for such a distinction. Where these two conditions are present, metabolite images from 1H-MRSI, such as that based on Cho, can be co-registered with other imaging modalities such as MRI and may also be integrated with functional MRI or functional PET within a multimodal imaging-guided surgical navigation system to assure maximal resection of recurrent tumor while minimizing the risk of added neurological damage.