Background: Despite many reports on metastatic spinal cord compression, only very few prospective studies of the clinical outcome of spinal cord compression have been carried out.
Methods: 153 consecutive patients with a known malignant solid tumor and a myelographically verified diagnosis of spinal cord compression were followed with regular neurological examination.
Results: At time of diagnosis 79 patients were walking, while the remaining were bedridden. In total 21 of the 74 initially non-walking patients began walking after therapy. There was a need for urinary catheter in 57 (37%) patients at the time of diagnosis. During follow-up, 10 of 57 patients (18%) dispensed with the catheter. A total of 116 patients experienced radicular pain at the time of diagnosis, while in 95 of 116 patients (83%) the pain disappeared after therapy.
Conclusion: the present study confirms, that early diagnosis, i.e., while the patients are still ambulatory, is most important, but the prognosis for recovery of ambulatory function is not as pessimistic as earlier described. In addition the results indicate that supplementary systemic therapy, when available, may have a positive influence on recovery.