2015 Volume 55 Issue 4 Pages 317-327
Surgery for spinal intramedullary tumors remains one of the major challenges for neurosurgeons, due to their relative infrequency, unknown natural history, and surgical difficulty. We are sure that safe and precise resection of spinal intramedullary tumors, particularly encapsulated benign tumors, can result in acceptable or satisfactory postoperative outcomes. General surgical concepts and strategies, technical consideration, and functional outcomes after surgery are discussed with illustrative cases of spinal intramedullary benign tumors such as ependymoma, cavernous malformation, and hemangioblastoma. Selection of a posterior median sulcus, posterolateral sulcus, or direct transpial approach was determined based on the preoperative imaging diagnosis and careful inspection of the spinal cord surface. Tumor-cord interface was meticulously delineated in cases of benign encapsulated tumors. Our retrospective functional analysis of 24 consecutive cases of spinal intramedullary ependymoma followed for at least 6 months postoperatively demonstrated a mean grade on the modified McCormick functional schema of 1.8 before surgery, deteriorating significantly to 2.6 early after surgery (< 1 month after surgery), and finally returning to 1.7 in the late postoperative period (> 6 months after surgery). The risk of functional deterioration after surgery should be taken into serious consideration. Functional deterioration after surgery, including neuropathic pain even long after surgery, significantly affects patient quality of life. Better balance between tumor control and functional preservation can be achieved not only by the surgical technique or expertise, but also by intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring, vascular image guidance, and postoperative supportive care. Quality of life after surgery should inarguably be given top priority.