En bloc resection with adequate margins is associated with the highest probability of long-term tumor control or cure in most cases of primary sacral malignancies. The authors present their experience with a systematic approach to these lesions. They provide a novel classification of surgical techniques based on the level of nerve root sacrifice and evaluate the functional and oncological outcomes.
Seventy-eight consecutive patients underwent 94 resections of sacral neoplasms at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston between August 1993 and June 2002. The records of 29 consecutive patients who underwent en bloc resection of primary sacral tumors were retrospectively reviewed. The median follow-up period was 55 months (range 1–103 months). Chordoma was the most frequent tumor type (16 cases). Midline sacral amputation was performed in 25 patients (eight low, four middle, seven high, and five total sacrectomies; one hemicorporectomy). Lateral sacrectomy was undertaken in four patients (two unilateral excisions of the sacroiliac joint and two hemisacrectomies). The surgical margins were wide in 19 cases, marginal in nine, and contaminated in one. The type of sacrectomy correlated with characteristic outcomes with respect to bladder, bowel, and ambulatory functions. Duration of hospital stay was related to the extent of sacrectomy (p = 0.003, Wilcoxon signed-rank test). The median Kaplan—Meier disease-free survival for patients with chordoma was 68 months (95% confidence interval 46–90 months).
Classification of en bloc sacral resection techniques by the level of nerve root transection is useful in predicting postoperative function and the potential for morbidity. Adequate surgical margins should not be compromised to preserve function when they are necessary to affect tumor control.