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Claudio E. Tatsui, R. Jason Stafford, Jing Li, Jonathan N. Sellin, Behrang Amini, Ganesh Rao, Dima Suki, Amol J. Ghia, Paul Brown, Sun-Ho Lee, Charles E. Cowles, Jeffrey S. Weinberg and Laurence D. Rhines


High-grade malignant spinal cord compression is commonly managed with a combination of surgery aimed at removing the epidural tumor, followed by spinal stereotactic radiosurgery (SSRS) aimed at local tumor control. The authors here introduce the use of spinal laser interstitial thermotherapy (SLITT) as an alternative to surgery prior to SSRS.


Patients with a high degree of epidural malignant compression due to radioresistant tumors were selected for study. Visual analog scale (VAS) scores for pain and quality of life were obtained before and within 30 and 60 days after treatment. A laser probe was percutaneously placed in the epidural space. Real-time thermal MRI was used to monitor tissue damage in the region of interest. All patients received postoperative SSRS. The maximum thickness of the epidural tumor was measured, and the degree of epidural spinal cord compression (ESCC) was scored in pre- and postprocedure MRI.


In the 11 patients eligible for study, the mean VAS score for pain decreased from 6.18 in the preoperative period to 4.27 within 30 days and 2.8 within 60 days after the procedure. A similar VAS interrogating the percentage of quality of life demonstrated improvement from 60% preoperatively to 70% within both 30 and 60 days after treatment. Imaging follow-up 2 months after the procedure demonstrated a significant reduction in the mean thickness of the epidural tumor from 8.82 mm (95% CI 7.38–10.25) before treatment to 6.36 mm (95% CI 4.65–8.07) after SLITT and SSRS (p = 0.0001). The median preoperative ESCC Grade 2 was scored as 4, which was significantly higher than the score of 2 for Grade 1b (p = 0.04) on imaging follow-up 2 months after the procedure.


The authors present the first report on an innovative minimally invasive alternative to surgery in the management of spinal metastasis. In their early experience, SLITT has provided local control with low morbidity and improvement in both pain and the quality of life of patients.

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Claudio E. Tatsui, Clarissa N. G. Nascimento, Dima Suki, Behrang Amini, Jing Li, Amol J. Ghia, Jonathan G. Thomas, R. Jason Stafford, Laurence D. Rhines, Juan P. Cata, Ashok J. Kumar and Ganesh Rao


Image guidance for spinal procedures is based on 3D-fluoroscopy or CT, which provide poor visualization of soft tissues, including the spinal cord. To overcome this limitation, the authors developed a method to register intraoperative MRI (iMRI) of the spine into a neuronavigation system, allowing excellent visualization of the spinal cord. This novel technique improved the accuracy in the deployment of laser interstitial thermal therapy probes for the treatment of metastatic spinal cord compression.


Patients were positioned prone on the MRI table under general anesthesia. Fiducial markers were applied on the skin of the back, and a plastic cradle was used to support the MRI coil. T2-weighted MRI sequences of the region of interest were exported to a standard navigation system. A reference array was sutured to the skin, and surface matching of the fiducial markers was performed. A navigated Jamshidi needle was advanced until contact was made with the dorsal elements; its position was confirmed with intraoperative fluoroscopy prior to advancement into a target in the epidural space. A screenshot of its final position was saved, and then the Jamshidi needle was exchanged for an MRI-compatible access cannula. MRI of the exact axial plane of each access cannula was obtained and compared with the corresponding screenshot saved during positioning. The discrepancy in millimeters between the trajectories was measured to evaluate accuracy of the image guidance


Thirteen individuals underwent implantation of 47 laser probes. The median absolute value of the discrepancy between the location predicted by the navigation system and the actual position of the access cannulas was 0.7 mm (range 0–3.2 mm). No injury or adverse event occurred during the procedures.


This study demonstrates the feasibility of image guidance based on MRI to perform laser interstitial thermotherapy of spinal metastasis. The authors' method permits excellent visualization of the spinal cord, improving safety and workflow during laser ablations in the epidural space. The results can be extrapolated to other indications, including biopsies or drainage of fluid collections near the spinal cord.