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Intramedullary spinal cord astrocytomas are relatively rare and usually low-grade lesions with a long natural history. The rarity of the condition and its indolent clinical course has made the evaluation of treatment efficacy difficult. To clarify postoperative outcome and prognostic factors, we performed a retrospective analysis of intramedullary spinal cord astrocytomas in a single institute. Twenty-eight patients were surgically treated between 1978 and 1999; of median age 36 years (range, 19-68 years); nineteen patients were males and nine females. All patients presented with pain and neurological deficits. The cervical cord was involved in fifteen patients, cervico-thoracic in five, thoracic in six and thoraco-lumbar in two. Gross total removal was performed in three patients, subtotal removal in six, partial removal in fourteen and biopsy only in five. Nineteen patients received radiation therapy postoperatively. The mean follow-up period was 31.9 months (range, 0.5-184 months). Low-grade astrocytomas were found in 18 cases, anaplastic astrocytoma in three cases and glioblastomas in seven cases. The median survivals of patients with low- and high-grade astrocytoma were 184 months and 8 months, respectively (p < 0.05). The median survivals of irradiated and non-irradiated patients with low-grade astrocytoma were 184 months and 102 months. Neither the extent of resection, nor radiation influenced the survival rate. In summary, the histological grade was the most significant predictor of survival in patients with astrocytoma of the spinal cord.