Metastasis to the spinal cord is rare, and optimal management of this disease is unclear. The authors investigated this issue by analyzing the results of surgical treatment of spinal intramedullary metastasis (IM) at a major cancer center.
The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 13 patients who underwent surgery for IM. Patients had renal cell carcinoma (n = 4), breast carcinoma (n = 3), melanoma (n = 2), non–small cell lung cancer (n = 1), sarcoma (n = 1), adenoid cystic carcinoma (n = 1), and cervical cancer (n = 1). Cerebrospinal fluid was collected before surgery in 11 patients, and was negative for malignant cells, as was MRI of the neuraxis. Eleven patients presented with neurological function equivalent to Frankel Grade D.
Radiographic gross-total resection was achieved in 9 patients, and tumor eventually recurred locally in 3 of those 9 (33%). Leptomeningeal disease was diagnosed in 4 patients after surgery. In the immediate postoperative period, neurological function in 6 patients deteriorated to Frankel Grade C. At 2 months, only 2 patients remained at Grade C, 8 were at Grade D, and 1 had improved to Grade E. One patient developed postoperative hematoma resulting in Frankel Grade A. Radiotherapy was delivered in 8 patients postoperatively. The median survival after spine surgery was 6.5 months. Three patients are still living.
Surgery was performed as a last option to preserve neurological function in patients with IM. In most patients, neurological function returned during the immediate postoperative period and was preserved for the patients’ remaining lifetime. The data suggest that surgery can be effective in preventing further decline in selected patients with progressive neurological deficit.