Survival and functional outcome after surgical resection of intramedullary spinal cord metastases

World Neurosurg. 2012 Feb;77(2):370-4. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2011.07.016. Epub 2011 Nov 7.


Objective: Intramedullary spinal cord metastasis (ISCM) is a rare manifestation of systemic cancer and data about the optimal management of these lesions are lacking. To clarify the role of surgery, we investigated survival and neurological outcomes after surgical resection of ISCMs.

Methods: Between 2003 and 2010, we surgically treated 10 ISCMs in 9 patients. For each patient, we retrospectively collected the following data: demographic variables, history of prior cancer, site of primary cancer, extent of cancer on presentation, degree of resection, preoperative and postoperative spinal cord impairment (American Spinal Injury Association [ASIA] grade), and postoperative survival. We investigated the relationship between these variables, overall survival, and preservation of function.

Results: Eight ISCMs were treated with gross total resection and two were treated with subtotal resection. Overall postoperative survival was 6.4 ± 9.4 months (mean ± standard deviation), with one patient still alive at last follow-up. Patients with a diagnosis of melanoma had higher mean survival than those with nonmelanoma histology (20.5 ± 13.4 vs. 2.4 ± 1.7 months, P < 0.01). Degree of resection, number of organ systems affected, ambulatory status, and ASIA grade pre operatively or postoperatively, were not significantly associated with survival. Of the nine patients, seven (78%) demonstrated no change in ASIA grade postoperatively, one (11%) improved, and one patient (11%) deteriorated. All patients who were ambulatory preoperatively remained ambulatory postoperatively and at last follow-up.

Conclusions: Although ISCM is associated with poor prognosis, survival appears to be greater in patients with melanoma. Surgical resection does not appear to significantly lengthen survival but may be indicated to preserve ambulatory status in symptomatic patients.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Karnofsky Performance Status
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Microsurgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Survival
  • Treatment Outcome