Access to the ventral intradural spinal canal may be required for treatment of a variety of lesions affecting the spinal cord and adjacent intradural structures. Adequate exposure is usually achieved through a standard posterior laminectomy or posterolateral approaches, although formal anterior approaches are used to access lesions in the subaxial cervical spine. Modifications of the standard posterior exposure as well as ventral or ventrolateral approaches are increasingly being used for treating intradural spinal pathologies. In this study, the authors review their experience with 35 consecutive cases of ventral intradural spinal lesions.
Only patients with intradural lesions located completely ventral to the dentate ligament attachments were included in this retrospective study. Patients with the following lesions were excluded from the study: lesions at the level of the filum terminale/cauda equina, lesions with any component that extended dorsally to the dentate ligament, or lesions with extradural extension (that is, dumbbell tumors) below the C-2 level. Between January 2000 and September 2009, a total of 35 patients (age range 17–72 years, mean 42.6 years) with ventral intradural spinal pathology underwent surgery at the authors' institution.
There were 28 intradural extramedullary mass lesions: 15 meningiomas, 12 solitary schwannomas, and 1 neuroenteric cyst. Surgical approaches to these lesions included 23 posterior or posterolateral approaches, 4 anterior approaches with corpectomy followed by tumor resection and reconstruction, and 1 lateral transforaminal resection. No patient had evidence of instability at follow-up, which ranged from 6 months to 8 years in duration. One patient had worsened spinal cord function following surgery. There were 7 patients with intramedullary lesions: 2 hemangioblastomas, 2 cavernous malformations, 2 perimedullary fistulas, and 1 astrocytoma. All but 1 were superficial pia-based lesions arising ventral to the dentate ligament. Five of the 6 pia-based lesions were successfully resected via a standard posterior laminectomy, partial facetectomy with dentate section, and spinal cord rotation. One midline pial lesion was successfully removed with a minimally invasive retropleural thoracotomy. The astrocytoma was resected through an anterior cervical corpectomy, which was followed by instrumented reconstruction. There were no significant complications or neurological morbidity at follow-up (range 9 months–6 years).
Most intradural spinal lesions can be treated with contemporary microsurgical techniques with long-term control or cure of the lesion and preservation of neurological function. Standard posterior approaches provide adequate exposure to safely remove the vast majority of these lesions without the need for a potentially destabilizing resection of the facet or pedicle. Posterior exposures with varying degrees of lateral bone resection, dentate ligament division, and gentle cord rotation may also provide adequate exposure for safe removal of nonmidline ventrolateral superficial pial presenting spinal cord lesions. Nevertheless, in certain cases of ventral intradural lesions, anterior approaches are necessary and should be considered under appropriate circumstances.