The surgical treatment of metastatic spinal tumors within the intradural extramedullary compartment

Thomas S. F. Chow M.D., Ph.D. 1 and Ian E. McCutcheon M.D., F.R.C.S.(C) 1
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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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✓ The authors retrospectively reviewed the surgical outcomes in 10 cases of symptomatic intradural extramedullary spinal metastases of nonneurogenic origin because the collective experience in treating this rare manifestation of systemic cancer is limited. Pain and weakness were the presenting complaints in 70% of the patients and sensory changes were found in all cases. Cytological tests on one specimen of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from each of seven patients showed malignant cells in two cases. Gadolinium contrast-enhanced biplanar magnetic resonance (MR) imaging was effective in localizing the lesion and showed evidence of leptomeningeal carcinomatosis in two cases; myelography showed leptomeningeal carcinomatosis in one case and erroneously identified the lesion as intramedullary in the other. Eight of 10 cases had antecedent intracranial metastatic foci with the interval from presentation of the intracranial lesion to appearance of the spinal disease ranging from 3 to 51 months. The majority of the spinal lesions occurred in the thoracolumbar area. The most frequent histological type was adenocarcinoma and the most frequent source was the lung. In all cases laminectomies, intradural exploration, and biopsy or subtotal excision aided by microscopy and ultrasonography were performed. Results of surgical decompression were poor with only 30% of the patients showing improvement, at a 20% risk of perioperative mortality and a 60% risk of morbidity. Plans for surgical intervention in patients with intradural extramedullary metastases from a distant nonneurogenic source should be weighed against the high association with intracranial lesions, overall poor prognosis, and modest symptomatic results of decompression. Comprehensive evaluation including multiple specimens of CSF for cytology and contrast-enhanced MR imaging should be undertaken to exclude patients with diffuse leptomeningeal involvement, who should be treated by means other than surgery.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Ian E. McCutcheon, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Box 64, Houston, Texas 77030.
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