The lateral extracavitary approach was used for single-staged tumor resection in 12 patients with complex dumbbell or paraspinal tumors of the thoracic and lumbar spine. Six women and six men (age, 28-72 yr) were treated between August 1990 and January 1994. The tumors included schwannoma (6 patients), malignant meningioma (1 patient), hemangioma (1 patient), chondrosarcoma (1 patient), osteocartilaginous exostosis (1 patient), radiation-induced osteogenic sarcoma (1 patient), and metastatic renal carcinoma (1 patient). Gross total resection was achieved in 11 patients. Radical subtotal removal was performed in the remaining patient, who had a malignant osteogenic sarcoma. Concomitant spinal stabilization with internal fixation and anterior interbody strut grafting was performed on two patients. No significant perioperative complications occurred. Ten patients were alive and clinically stable at follow-up visits ranging from 14 to 55 months. Two patients died from systemic tumor dissemination during the follow-up period. The lateral extracavitary approach is useful when extensive or difficult spinal and paraspinal exposure is required. The surgical aspects of these neoplasms and the technique of lateral extracavitary approach are described in detail.