Association of tumor location, extent of resection, and neurofibromatosis status with clinical outcomes for 221 spinal nerve sheath tumors

Neurosurg Focus. 2015 Aug;39(2):E5. doi: 10.3171/2015.5.FOCUS15183.


OBJECT Intradural extramedullary spine tumors represent two-thirds of all primary spine neoplasms. Approximately half of these are peripheral nerve sheath tumors, mainly neurofibromas and schwannomas. Given the rarity of this disease and, thus, the limited analyses of clinical outcomes, the authors examined the association of tumor location, extent of resection, and neurofibromatosis (NF) status with clinical outcomes. METHODS Patients were identified through a search of the University of California, San Francisco, neuropathology database and a separate review of current procedural terminology codes. Data recorded included patient age, patient sex, clinical presentation, presence of NF, tumor type, tumor location, extent of resection (gross-total resection [GTR] or subtotal resection [STR]), and clinical follow-up. RESULTS Of 221 tumors in 199 patients (mean age 45 years), 53 were neurofibromas, 163 were schwannomas, and 5 were malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors. The most common presenting symptom was spinal pain (76%), followed by weakness (36%) and sensory abnormalities (34%). Mean symptom duration was 16 months. In terms of spinal location, neurofibromas were more common in the cervical spine (74% vs 27%, p < 0.001), and schwannomas were more common in the thoracic and lumbosacral spine (73% vs 26%, p < 0.001). Rates of GTR were lower for neurofibromas than schwannomas (51% vs 83%, p < 0.001), regardless of location. Rates of GTR were lower for cervical (54%) than thoracic (90%) and lumbosacral (86%) lesions (p < 0.001). NF was associated with lower rates of GTR among all tumors (43% vs 86%, p < 0.001). The mean follow-up time was 32 months. Recurrence/progression was more common for neurofibromas than schwannomas (17% vs 7%, p = 0.03), although the mean time to recurrence/progression did not differ according to tumor type (45 vs 53 months, p = 0.63). As expected, GTR was associated with lower recurrence rates (4% vs 22%, p < 0.001). According to multivariate analysis, cervical location (OR 0.239, 95% CI 0.110-0.520) and presence of NF (OR 0.166, 95% CI 0.054-0.507) were associated with lower rates of GTR. In a separate model, only GTR (OR 0.141, 95% CI 0.046-0.429) was associated with tumor recurrence. CONCLUSIONS Resection is an effective treatment for spinal nerve sheath tumors. Neurofibromas were found more commonly in the cervical spine than in other regions of the spine and were associated with higher rates of recurrence and lower rates of GTR than other tumor types, particularly in patients with NF Types 1 or 2. According to multivariate analysis, both cervical location and presence of NF were associated with lower rates of GTR. According to a second multivariate model, the only variable associated with tumor recurrence was extent of resection. Maximal safe resection remains ideal for these lesions; however, patients with cervical tumors or NF should be counseled about their increased risk for recurrence.

Keywords: GTR = gross-total resection; NF = neurofibromatosis; NF1 = NF Type 1; NF2 = NF Type 2; STR = subtotal resection; nerve sheath tumor; neurofibroma; schwannoma; spine.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lumbosacral Region / pathology*
  • Lumbosacral Region / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery*
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Neurilemmoma / surgery
  • Neurofibromatoses / surgery
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome