Primary Intramedullary Tumors of the Spinal Cord

SPINE Volume 34, Number 22S, pp S69 –S77, 2009

Study Design. Clinically based systematic review.

Objective. To define optimal clinical care for primary intramedullary spinal cord tumors using a systematic re- view with expert opinion.

Methods. Focused questions on the treatment of primary intramedullary spinal cord tumors were refined by a panel of spine oncology surgeons, medical and radiation oncologist. Keyword were searched through Medline database and pertinent abstracts and manuscripts obtained. The quality of literature was rated as high, moderate, low, or very low. Using the GRADE evidence based review system the proposed questions were answered using the literature review and expert opinion. These treatment recommendations were then rated as either strong or weak based on the quality of evidence and clinical expertise.

Results. The literature searches revealed low and very low quality evidence with no prospective or randomized studies. The MEDLINE search engine returned 9000 articles which was restricted to articles about human subjects and written in the English language. The subsequent search resulted in a return of: “spinal cord tumor” (5053), “ependymoma” (580), “astrocytoma” (420), and “glioma” (235) articles. Seventeen articles referenced timing of surgical intervention and symptomatology for intramedullary spinal cord tumors. One hundred fifty-eight chemotherapy and 183 radiation therapy articles for intramedullary spinal cord tumors were reviewed.

Conclusion. The most important factor in determining the IMSCT patient’s long-term neurologic and functional outcome after surgery is the patient’s preoperative neurologic status. However, this must be taken in the context of the underlying tumor histology. Therefore, resection is reserved for progressive neurologic decline and serial monitoring for asymptomatic individuals. Adjuvant therapy is an option for high grade astrocytomas (WHO grades 3–4).