Surgery should be considered for patients with intramedullary spinal ependymomas (ISE), particularly those presenting with a neurological deficit preoperatively. In contrast, it is still a debatable matter whether to recommend the same approach for patients with no neurological impairment. To investigate this matter, we analyzed the data of 82 consecutive patients with ISEs treated at our institution.METHODS
We reviewed the medical charts of all ISE patients undergoing operation at our institution between 1985 and 2000. Particular attention was given to patients without neurological deficit before surgery.RESULTS
Eighty-two consecutive ISE patients were included in this study. Preoperatively, a neurological deficit of variable severity was present in 72 patients (Group A, 88%) and absent in 10 patients (Group B, 12%). In the latter group, seven patients had progressive and nonspecific pain as the only presenting symptom; two had arm dysesthesias; and in one patient, ISE was diagnosed incidentally. The mean duration of their symptoms was 21 months. We achieved a total tumor excision in nine patients and subtotal removal in one. At the last follow-up assessment (mean, 45 mo), all Group B patients remained at Grade I of the McCormick classification, except one, who deteriorated to Grade Ib. Furthermore, nonspecific pain diminished in three patients, stabilized in four, and worsened in one. Arm dysesthesias diminished in one patient and stabilized in the other. No surgery-related complication or recurrence was recorded in these patients.CONCLUSION
Surgery should be carefully considered for ISE patients with no objective neurological deficit preoperatively because, in our experience, it resolves their preoperative complaints in 30% of cases, stabilizes them in 60%, and worsens them in 10%.