Surgery followed by radiotherapy versus radiotherapy alone for metastatic spinal cord compression from unfavorable tumors

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2011 Dec 1;81(5):e861-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2010.11.056. Epub 2011 Jan 27.


Purpose: Despite a previously published randomized trial, controversy exists regarding the benefit of adding surgery to radiotherapy for metastatic spinal cord compression (MSCC). It is thought that patients with MSCC from relatively radioresistant tumors or tumors associated with poor functional outcome after radiotherapy alone may benefit from surgery. This study focuses on these tumors.

Methods and materials: Data from 67 patients receiving surgery plus radiotherapy (S+RT) were matched to 134 patients (1:2) receiving radiotherapy alone (RT). Groups were matched for 10 factors and compared for motor function, ambulatory status, local control, and survival. Additional separate matched-pair analyses were performed for patients receiving direct decompressive surgery plus stabilization of involved vertebrae (DDSS) and patients receiving laminectomy (LE).

Results: Improvement of motor function occurred in 22% of patients after S+RT and 16% after RT (p=0.25). Posttreatment ambulatory rates were 67% and 61%, respectively (p=0.68). Of nonambulatory patients, 29% and 19% (p=0.53) regained ambulatory status. One-year local control rates were 85% and 89% (p=0.87). One-year survival rates were 38% and 24% (p=0.20). The matched-pair analysis of patients receiving LE showed no significant differences between both therapies. In the matched-pair analysis of patients receiving DDSS, improvement of motor function occurred more often after DDSS+RT than RT (28% vs. 19%, p=0.024). Posttreatment ambulatory rates were 86% and 67% (p=0.30); 45% and 18% of patients regained ambulatory status (p=0.29).

Conclusions: Patients with MSCC from an unfavorable primary tumor appeared to benefit from DDSS but not LE when added to radiotherapy in terms of improved functional outcome.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / surgery
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Laminectomy
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Neoplasms, Unknown Primary / pathology
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Compression / etiology
  • Spinal Cord Compression / mortality
  • Spinal Cord Compression / radiotherapy*
  • Spinal Cord Compression / surgery*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Spinal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Spinal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walking