High incidence of morbidity following resection of metastatic pheochromocytoma in the spine

Report of 5 cases

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  • Department of Neurosurgery, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
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Pheochromocytomas of the spine are uncommon and require careful preoperative planning. The authors retrospectively reviewed the charts of 5 patients with metastatic spinal pheochromocytoma who had undergone surgical treatment over the past 10 years at their medical center. They reviewed patient age, history of pheochromocytoma resection, extent and location of metastases, history of alpha blockage, surgical level, surgical procedure, postoperative complications, tumor recurrence, and survival. Metastases involved the cervical (1 patient), thoracic (3 patients), and lumbar (2 patients) levels. Preoperative treatment included primary pheochromocytoma resection, chemotherapy, alpha blockade, embolization, and radiation. Three patients had tumor recurrence, and 2 underwent 2-stage reoperations for tumor extension. Hemodynamic complications were common: 2 patients developed pulseless electrical activity arrest within 4 months after surgery, 1 patient had profound postoperative tachycardia with fever and an elevated creatine kinase level, and 1 patient experienced transient postoperative hypotension and paraplegia. One patient died of complications related to disseminated cerebral and spinal disease.

With careful preoperative and surgical management, patients with symptomatic metastatic spinal pheochromocytoma can benefit from aggressive surgical treatment. Postoperative cardiovascular complications are common even months after surgery, and patients should be closely monitored long term.

Abbreviations used in this paper:CK = creatine kinase; MIBG = metaiodobenzylguanidine; PEA = pulseless electrical activity.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Paul E. Kaloostian, M.D., 600 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21207. email: paulkaloostian@hotmail.com.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online April 11, 2014; DOI: 10.3171/2014.3.SPINE13535.

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