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Sherise D. Ferguson, Nicholas B. Levine, Dima Suki, Andrew J. Tsung, Fredrick F. Lang, Raymond Sawaya, Jeffrey S. Weinberg and Ian E. McCutcheon

OBJECTIVE

Fourth ventricle tumors are rare, and surgical series are typically small, comprising a single pathology, or focused exclusively on pediatric populations. This study investigated surgical outcome and complications following fourth ventricle tumor resection in a diverse patient population. This is the largest cohort of fourth ventricle tumors described in the literature to date.

METHODS

This is an 18-year (1993–2010) retrospective review of 55 cases involving patients undergoing surgery for tumors of the fourth ventricle. Data included patient demographic characteristics, pathological and radiographic tumor characteristics, and surgical factors (approach, surgical adjuncts, extent of resection, etc.). The neurological and medical complications following resection were collected and outcomes at 30 days, 90 days, 6 months, and 1 year were reviewed to determine patient recovery. Patient, tumor, and surgical factors were analyzed to determine factors associated with the frequently encountered postoperative neurological complications.

RESULTS

There were no postoperative deaths. Gross-total resection was achieved in 75% of cases. Forty-five percent of patients experienced at least 1 major neurological complication, while 31% had minor complications only. New or worsening gait/focal motor disturbance (56%), speech/swallowing deficits (38%), and cranial nerve deficits (31%) were the most common neurological deficits in the immediate postoperative period. Of these, cranial nerve deficits were the least likely to resolve at follow-up. Multivariate analysis showed that patients undergoing a transvermian approach had a higher incidence of postoperative cranial nerve deficits, gait disturbance, and speech/swallowing deficits than those treated with a telovelar approach. The use of surgical adjuncts (intraoperative navigation, neurophysiological monitoring) did not significantly affect neurological outcome. Twenty-two percent of patients required postoperative CSF diversion following tumor resection. Patients who required intraoperative ventriculostomy, those undergoing a transvermian approach, and pediatric patients (< 18 years old) were all more likely to require postoperative CSF diversion. Twenty percent of patients suffered at least 1 medical complication following tumor resection. Most complications were respiratory, with the most common being postoperative respiratory failure (14%), followed by pneumonia (13%).

CONCLUSIONS

The occurrence of complications after fourth ventricle tumor surgery is not rare. Postoperative neurological sequelae were frequent, but a substantial number of patients had neurological improvement at long-term followup. Of the neurological complications analyzed, postoperative cranial nerve deficits were the least likely to completely resolve at follow-up. Of all the patient, tumor, and surgical variables included in the analysis, surgical approach had the most significant impact on neurological morbidity, with the telovelar approach being associated with less morbidity.

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Ziya L. Gokaslan, Julie E. York, Garrett L. Walsh, Ian E. McCutcheon, Frederick F. Lang, Joe B. Putnam Jr., David M. Wildrick, Stephen G. Swisher, Dima Abi-Said and Raymond Sawaya

Anterior approaches to the spine for the treatment of spinal tumors have gained acceptance; however, in most published reports, patients with primary, metastatic, or chest wall tumors involving cervical, thoracic, or lumbar regions of the spine are combined. The purpose of this study was to provide a clear perspective of results that can be expected in patients who undergo anterior vertebral body resection, reconstruction, and stabilization for spinal metastases that are limited to the thoracic region.

Outcome is presented for 72 patients with metastatic spinal tumors who were treated by transthoracic vertebrectomy at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The predominant primary tumors included renal cancer in 19 patients, breast cancer in 10, melanoma or sarcoma in 10, and lung cancer in nine patients. The most common presenting symptoms were back pain, which occurred in 90% of patients, and lower-extremity weakness, which occurred in 64% of patients. All patients underwent transthoracic vertebrectomy, decompression, reconstruction with methylmethacrylate, and anterior fixation with locking plate and screw constructs. Supplemental posterior instrumentation was required in seven patients with disease involving the cervicothoracic or thoracolumbar junction, which was causing severe kyphosis. After surgery, pain improved in 60 of 65 patients. This improvement was found to be statistically significant (p < 0.001) based on visual analog scales and narcotic analgesic medication use. Thirty-five of the 46 patients who presented with neurological dysfunction improved significantly (p < 0.001) following the procedure. Thirty-three patients had weakness but could ambulate preoperatively. Seventeen of these 33 regained normal strength, 15 patients continued to have weakness, and one patient was neurologically worse postoperatively. Of the 13 preoperatively nonambulatory patients, 10 could walk after surgery and three were still unable to walk but showed improved motor function. Twenty-one patients had complications ranging from minor atelectasis to pulmonary embolism. The 30-day mortality rate was 3%. The 1-year survival rate for the entire study population was 62%.

These results suggest that transthoracic vertebrectomy and spinal stabilization can improve the quality of life considerably in cancer patients with spinal metastasis by restoring or preserving ambulation and by controlling intractable spinal pain with acceptable rates of morbidity and mortality.