Background: The routine use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in recent years for the diagnostic assessment of the spinal column and especially for screening patients with von Hippel-Lindau (vHL) disease has shown that spinal hemangioblastomas (sHBs) are more common than assumed so far. Since most sHBs are thus discovered while they are still asymptomatic, especially in vHL disease, the question arises whether and when these tumors should be treated. The present article reports the results of the surgical treatment of sHBs using the protocol described below and compares them to the course in a control group of patients with conservatively treated sHBs.
Patients and methods: A total of 30 sHBs were treated microsurgically in 15 patients. Hemangioblastoma-associated cysts were merely opened in 14 cases, drained with the help of Teflon cotton in 2 of these cases, and not opened in 4 instances. Laminoplasties were performed with insertion of absorbable, MRI-compatible microosteosynthesis plates. Perioperatively, all patients were administered methylprednisolone according to the NASCIS (National Acute Spinal Cord Injury Study) scheme, and sensory evoked potentials were monitored intra-operatively in all cases. Nine patients in whom the course of primarily conservative treatment of a total of 17 asymptomatic sHBs was documented served as controls. The follow-up time was 7 to 51 months (mean 20) after surgery and 10 to 51 months (mean 21) in the control group.
Findings: Preoperative HB-associated pareses showed transient postoperative deterioration (n = 5). The other accompanying neurological deficits improved in 6 HBs and remained unchanged in all other HBs (n = 19), of which 16 had been asymptomatic before surgery. In the control group, 6 HBs (in 6 different patients) became permanently symptomatic despite subsequent surgical treatment according to the study protocol.
Interpretations: With the new diagnostic tools now available, microsurgical removal of spinal hemangioblastomas has a low morbidity rate, suggesting that surgical treatment should be considered even for asymptomatic sHBs in certain circumstances.