Object. Von Hippel—Lindau (VHL) disease is an autosomal-dominant neoplastic syndrome with manifestations in multiple organs, which is evoked by the deletion or mutation of a tumor suppressor gene on chromosome 3p25. Spinal hemangioblastomas (40% of VHL disease—associated lesions of the central nervous system) arise predominantly in the posterior aspect of the spinal cord and are often associated with an intraspinal cyst. Rarely, the tumor develops in the anterior aspect of the spinal cord. Ventral spinal hemangioblastomas are a surgical challenge because of difficult access and because vessels feeding the tumor originate from the anterior spinal artery.
The goal of this study was to clarify whether an anterior or posterior surgical approach is better for management of hemangioblastomas of the ventral spinal cord.
Methods. The authors performed a retrospective analysis of clinical outcomes and findings on magnetic resonance (MR) imaging studies in eight patients (two women and six men with a mean age of 34 ± 15 years) who underwent resection of ventral spinal hemangioblastomas (nine tumors: five cervical and four thoracic). Two surgical approaches were used to resect these tumors. A posterior approach was selected to treat five patients (laminectomy and posterior myelotomy in four patients and the posterolateral approach in one patient); an anterior approach (corpectomy and arthrodesis) was selected to treat the remaining three patients.
Immediately after surgery, the ability to ambulate remained unchanged in patients in whom an anterior approach had been performed, but deteriorated significantly in patients in whom a posterior approach had been used, because of motor weakness (four of five patients) and/or proprioceptive sensory loss (three of five patients). This difference in ambulation, despite significant improvements over time among patients in the posterior access group, remained significant 6 months after surgery. In all cases, MR images revealed complete resection of the tumor and in five patients significant or complete resolution of the intramedullary cyst was demonstrated (present in six of eight patients).
Conclusions. The outcomes of these eight patients with hemangioblastomas of the ventral spinal cord indicate that both immediate and long-term results are better when an anterior approach is selected for resection.