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Surg Technol Int. 2006;15:257-63.

Posterolateral spinal cord decompression in patients with metastasis: an endoscopic assisted approach.

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  • 1Lerner College of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Spine Institute, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.


Spinal tumors that are radioresistant or cause bony compression of the spinal cord often require surgical decompression to protect or restore neurological function. Metastatic lesions and primary tumors such as multiple myeloma usually arise in the vertebral body, which can collapse and become unstable, and can compress the anterior columns of the cord. Laminectomy is often ineffective in these patients, and direct anterior decompression through thoracotomy is the widely-accepted solution to the neurological problem. The anterior surgical approach is particularly challenging in the upper thoracic spine. Patients with limited pulmonary reserve due to pneumonectomy or pulmonary metastasis might not tolerate the loss of lung capacity necessitated by either thoracotomy or thoracoscopy. Because posterior instrumentation is usually needed to provide stability following corpectomy and spinal cord decompression, posterolateral approaches to spinal cord decompression have gained favor in recent years. Posterolateral decompression offers advantages over the combined anterior and posterior approach, reducing operative time, morbidity, and hospital stay. Drawbacks to traditional posterolateral decompressions include poor visualization of the tumor immediately anterior to the spinal cord and the need to manipulate the spinal cord to completely remove a tumor adherent to the dura. Endoscopically assisted posterolateral decompression allows decompression of the anterior surface of the spinal cord, the point of pressure in most circumstances. Endoscopic video assistance facilitates vertebrectomy, cord decompression, and anterior reconstruction, all performed through the same posterior incision. Endoscopic assisted spinal cord decompression dramatically reduces morbidity, ICU requirements, and inpatient hospitalization and has proven useful for a variety of metastatic tumors at every level of the spinal column.

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