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J Neurosurg Spine. 2011 Mar;14(3):412-20. doi: 10.3171/2010.10.SPINE10147. Epub 2011 Jan 21.

"No performance in surgery more interesting and satisfactory": Harvey Cushing and his experience with spinal cord tumors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

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  • 1The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Although Harvey Cushing was a neurosurgical pioneer, his work on the spine remains largely unknown. In fact, other than his own publications, Cushing's patients with pathological lesions of the spine who were treated while he was at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, including those with spinal cord tumors, have never been previously described. The authors report on 7 patients with spinal cord tumors that Cushing treated surgically between 1898 and 1911: 2 extradural, 3 intradural extramedullary, and 2 intramedullary tumors. The authors also describe 10 patients in whom Cushing performed an "exploratory laminectomy" expecting to find a tumor, but in whom no oncological pathological entity was found. Cushing's spine surgeries were limited by challenges in making the correct diagnosis, lack of surgical precedent, and difficulty in achieving adequate intraoperative hemostasis. Other than briefly mentioning 2 of the 4 adult patients in his landmark monograph on meningiomas, these cases-both those involving tumors and those in which he performed exploratory laminectomies--have never been published before. Moreover, these cases illustrate the evolution that Harvey Cushing underwent as a spine surgeon.

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