The Clinical Features and Surgical Outcomes of Spinal Cord Tanycytic Ependymomas: A Report of 40 Cases

World Neurosurg. 2017 Oct:106:60-73. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2017.06.111. Epub 2017 Jun 21.


Objective: Spinal cord tanycytic ependymomas (TEs) rarely are reported because of extremely low incidence. Understanding of this disease is therefore poor. The aim of this study was to analyze the incidence and clinical, radiologic, pathologic, and prognostic features of spinal cord TEs.

Methods: Approximately 4000 spinal cord tumors were resected surgically in Beijing Tiantan Hospital between April 2009 and May 2016. We identified all cases of pathologically proved TEs among these patients.

Results: TEs accounted for approximately 1% of spinal cord tumors (40 of an estimated 4000). Patients with TE were a mean age of 40.0 years and had no significant sex preference (21 male and 19 female). The median diameter of the maximal tumor was 54.2 mm (range, 16-153 mm). The mean preoperative Japanese Orthopedic Association (JOA) score was 13.0. Radiologically, 47.5% (19/40) cases showed poorly defined tumor border, and 40% (16/40) of them showed preoperative syringomyelia. Gross total resection was achieved in 30 cases, subtotal resection in 8, and partial resection in 2. At the time of discharge, JOA score and neurologic function showed improvement in 26 cases (65%), no change in 12 cases (30%), and worsening in 2 cases (5%). At a median follow-up of 43 months (range, 7-101 months), 1- and 5-year progression-free survival rates were 100.0% and 97.5%, respectively. Only one patient had tumor recurrence which was found 30 months after surgery. No patient died of tumor recurrence. At the latest follow-up, JOA score showed improvement in 30 cases (75%), no change in 8 cases (20%), and worsening in 2 cases (5%). Univariate analysis revealed that tumor size and preoperative JOA score were significantly associated with the short-term outcomes. Meanwhile, age ≥40 years, tumor size ≥50 mm, non-gross total resection, and preoperative JOA score <14 were significantly associated with an increased risk of worsened long-term outcomes. Poorly defined tumor border and preoperative JOA score <14 significantly limited the extent of tumor resection.

Conclusions: Spinal cord TE is a rare subtype of ependymomas with low recurrence. Long-term survival can be expected, although poorly defined tumor border is an independent predictor of long-term outcomes. Microsurgical treatment of spinal cord TEs remains a formidable challenge due to the poorly defined border and critical neurovascular structures encasement. It is unnecessary for radical tumor resection at the cost of severe neurologic deficits.

Keywords: Clinical features; Radiology; Spinal cord; Surgical outcomes; Tanycytic ependymoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Pain / etiology
  • Ependymoma / complications
  • Ependymoma / diagnosis
  • Ependymoma / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypesthesia / etiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Microsurgery / methods
  • Muscle Weakness / etiology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / etiology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / complications
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome