Metastatic spinal tumors

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Metastatic spinal tumors are the most common type of malignant lesions of the spine. Prompt diagnosis and identification of the primary malignancy is crucial to overall treatment. Numerous factors affect outcome including the nature of the primary cancer, the number of lesions, the presence of distant nonskeletal metastases, and the presence and/or severity of spinal cord compression. Initial management consists of chemotherapy, external beam radiotherapy, and external orthoses. Surgical intervention must be carefully considered in each case. Patients expected to live longer than 12 weeks should be considered as candidates for surgery. Indications for surgery include intractable pain, spinal cord compression, and the need for stabilization of impending pathological fractures. Whereas various surgical approaches have been advocated, anterior-approach surgery is the most accepted procedure for spinal cord decompression. Posterior approaches have also been used with success, but they require longer-length fusion. To obtain a stable fixation, the placement of instrumentation, in conjunction with judicious use of polymethylmethacrylate augmentation, is crucial. Preoperative embolization should be considered in patients with extremely vascular tumors such as renal cell carcinoma. Vertebroplasty, a newly described procedure in which the metastatic spinal lesions are treated via a percutaneous approach, may be indicated in selected cases of intractable pain caused by non- or minimally fractured vertebrae.

Abbreviations used in this paper:CT = computerized tomography; GI = gastrointestinal; MMA = methylmethacrylate; MR = magnetic resonance; PMMA = polymethylmethacrylate; VB = vertebral body.

Metastatic spinal tumors are the most common type of malignant lesions of the spine. Prompt diagnosis and identification of the primary malignancy is crucial to overall treatment. Numerous factors affect outcome including the nature of the primary cancer, the number of lesions, the presence of distant nonskeletal metastases, and the presence and/or severity of spinal cord compression. Initial management consists of chemotherapy, external beam radiotherapy, and external orthoses. Surgical intervention must be carefully considered in each case. Patients expected to live longer than 12 weeks should be considered as candidates for surgery. Indications for surgery include intractable pain, spinal cord compression, and the need for stabilization of impending pathological fractures. Whereas various surgical approaches have been advocated, anterior-approach surgery is the most accepted procedure for spinal cord decompression. Posterior approaches have also been used with success, but they require longer-length fusion. To obtain a stable fixation, the placement of instrumentation, in conjunction with judicious use of polymethylmethacrylate augmentation, is crucial. Preoperative embolization should be considered in patients with extremely vascular tumors such as renal cell carcinoma. Vertebroplasty, a newly described procedure in which the metastatic spinal lesions are treated via a percutaneous approach, may be indicated in selected cases of intractable pain caused by non- or minimally fractured vertebrae.

Abbreviations used in this paper:CT = computerized tomography; GI = gastrointestinal; MMA = methylmethacrylate; MR = magnetic resonance; PMMA = polymethylmethacrylate; VB = vertebral body.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Robert F. Heary, M.D., The Spine Center of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, 90 Bergen Street, DOC Suite 7300, Newark, New Jersey 07103. email: heary@umdnj.edu.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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