Purpose: To document the clinical, imaging and histopathological features of five children with paraplegia due to Wilms' tumour (WT), highlighting therapeutic options and patient outcome in a developing country.
Methods: Patients with WT and paraplegia seen at the Department of Paediatric Surgery since 1984 form the study cohort. Patient demographics, duration of neurological symptoms, stage of primary tumour, therapeutic intervention and outcome were recorded. Histology of the primary tumours and paraspinal or epidural biopsies were reviewed.
Results: Five patients with WT and paraplegia were identified. Imaging showed epidural masses with paraspinal disease, cord displacement and compression. Four patients have died. Of the two patients with neurological recovery, one relapsed 4 months later. Histology revealed triphasic WT with one case showing anaplasia. Paraspinal or epidural biopsies confirmed WT with post-treatment changes. Three biopsies showed lymphovascular, perineurial and intraneural tumour invasion and one showed epidural venous invasion.
Conclusion: Although rare, WT-associated spinal disease may cause permanent neurological deficit, adding considerably to the burden of disease. In developing countries where patients present late, the prognosis is poor, however surgery may provide immediate relief of compression symptoms and biopsy material. The treatment of choice will depend on the facilities available and the clinical circumstances.