Clinical outcomes and a therapeutic indication of intramedullary spinal cord astrocytoma

Spinal Cord. 2022 Mar;60(3):216-222. doi: 10.1038/s41393-021-00676-8. Epub 2021 Jul 26.


Study design: Retrospective cohort study.

Objectives: Although intramedullary astrocytoma is associated with a high mortality rate, the optimal treatment has not reached a consensus. This study aimed at evaluating neurologic function and overall survival rate (OSR) in the treatment of this tumor.

Setting: The single institution in Japan.

Methods: This study enrolled 67 subjects who underwent surgical treatment for intramedullary astrocytoma. Demographic, imaging, and surgical information were collected from each participant. Tumors were histologically categorized using the World Health Organization classification, and subjects were divided into low-grade (I and II; n = 40) and high-grade (III and IV; n = 27) groups. Neurologic status was evaluated using the modified McCormick scale (MMS). OSR was assessed using Kaplan-Meier methods.

Results: The OSR decreased when the pathological grade increased (p < 0.01). Regarding the therapeutic efficacy for low-grade astrocytomas, subjects who underwent gross total resection (GTR) showed a higher OSR than those who did not (p = 0.02). GTR prevented worsening of MMS score, while non-GTR increased the MMS score (p < 0.01). In the high-grade group, 19 and 10 underwent radiation therapy and chemotherapy, respectively. However, both treatments did not improve OSR. Cordotomy was performed for subjects whose lesional area was at the thoracic level, but the OSR did not significantly increase.

Conclusions: The most beneficial therapeutic strategy for low-grade astrocytomas was GTR, whereas that for the high-grade tumors was unclear. Further studies with a larger sample size are warranted to validate the effective treatment for malignant astrocytomas.

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytoma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Astrocytoma* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / surgery
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome