Treatment of spinal cord compression by epidural malignancy in childhood

Neurosurgery. 1991 Mar;28(3):349-52. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199103000-00002.


Epidural spinal cord compression by a malignant tumor is a rare occurrence in children. Both the tumors involved and the extent of involvement of the vertebral column are different in children and adults. Often, the epidural tumor in a child is identified before significant spinal canal compromise has occurred, and these children frequently can be managed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. There is a group of children, however, who have severe spinal canal encroachment by a tumor, as evidenced by a near complete or complete block on myelography. In this study, we report a group of patients with severe spinal cord compression, as documented by imaging studies. We compared the results of a decompressive laminectomy and subtotal tumor resection followed by adjuvant therapy with the results obtained with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy alone. Thirty-three patients met the criteria for inclusion in the study. Twenty-six were treated with a laminectomy and adjuvant therapy, and 7 were treated without surgical intervention. With surgical therapy, 25 of 26 epidurals were either improved or stable, whereas 4 of 7 nonsurgical patients deteriorated. Especially notable was a decrease in pain in the operative patients immediately after their procedure. There was no surgical mortality or morbidity. The results of this study indicate that children with severe spinal cord compression as evidenced by a near complete or complete block on myelography or filling of 50% or more of the spinal canal on magnetic resonance imaging are best treated by a combination of surgical decompression and tumor removal followed by adjuvant therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Epidural Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Epidural Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Laminectomy / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Compression / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Compression / therapy*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed