Treatment of spinal epidural metastases

Randomized prospective comparison of laminectomy and radiotherapy

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✓ Metastases to the spinal epidural space with compression of the spinal cord or cauda equina are commonly encountered by physicians in a variety of clinical fields. In the recent past, decompressive laminectomy followed by radiotherapy was thought to be the best available treatment. More recently, radiotherapy alone has been advocated as an alternative treatment mode with a similar rate of effectiveness. This study compares laminectomy followed by radiotherapy to radiotherapy alone in the treatment of spinal epidural metastases in a randomized, prospective clinical trial. No significant difference was found in the effectiveness of the two treatment methods in regard to pain relief, improved ambulation, or improved sphincter function. Patients with an incomplete myelographic block fared well regardless of treatment, and those with a complete block fared poorly. Because of the limited size of this study and because of certain unforeseen design defects, the results are suggestive but not conclusive. Suggestions are made for a future randomized, prospective multicenter study that would conclusively answer the perplexing question as to the most efficacious method for treating spinal epidural metastases.

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Address reprint requests to: Ronald F. Young, M.D., Division of Neurosurgery, Harbor/UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, California 90509.

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