Object: Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease is an autosomal-dominant disorder frequently associated with hemangioblastomas of the spinal cord. Because of the slow progression, protean nature, and high frequency of multiple spinal hemangioblastomas associated with VHL disease, the surgical management of these lesions is complex. Because prior reports have not identified the factors that predict which patients with spinal cord hemangioblastomas need surgery or what outcomes of this procedure should be expected, the authors have reviewed a series of patients with VHL disease who underwent resection of spinal hemangioblastomas at a single institution to identify features that might guide surgical management of these patients.
Methods: Forty-four consecutive patients with VHL disease (26 men and 18 women) who underwent 55 operations with resection of 86 spinal cord hemangioblastomas (mean age at surgery 34 years; range 20-58 years) at the National Institutes of Health were included in this study (mean clinical follow up 44 months). Patient examination, review of hospital charts, operative findings, and magnetic resonance imaging studies were used to analyze surgical management and its outcome. To evaluate the clinical course, clinical grades were assigned to patients before and after surgery. Preoperative neurological status, tumor size, and tumor location were predictive of postoperative outcome. Patients with no or minimal preoperative neurological dysfunction, with lesions smaller than 500 mm3, and with dorsal lesions were more likely to have no or minimal neurological impairment. Syrinx resolution was the result of tumor removal and was not influenced by whether the syrinx cavity was entered.
Conclusions: Spinal cord hemangioblastomas can be safely removed in the majority of patients with VHL disease. Generally in these patients, hemangioblastomas of the spinal cord should be removed when they produce symptoms or signs.