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Surg Neurol Int. 2012;3:52. doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.96075. Epub 2012 May 14.

Delay in diagnosis of primary intradural spinal cord tumors.

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1
Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Tel-Aviv Medical Center, Weizman 6, Tel-Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

It has been our impression in recent years that there is a significant delay in diagnosis (DID) of patients in Israel harboring intradural spinal cord tumors (IDSCTs). DID can lead to irreversible deficits and unnecessary suffering. Our goal was to identify the incidence and the specific reasons for DID of IDSCTs in patients operated upon at our institution.

METHODS:

A retrospective record review, with additional telephone survey, of 101 patients operated upon at our institute between the years 1996 and 2009 was conducted. The patients who were not diagnosed locally and those who were diagnosed during routine spinal imaging studies as part of their basic disease check-up were excluded. Accordingly, neurofibromatosis and medical tourist patients were excluded.

RESULTS:

The clinical presentation of IDSCTs in our study was similar to the descriptions given in previous reports. The average age was 41.9 ± 23.3 years. Most tumors were ependymomas, astrocytomas, and schwannomas. The most common symptoms were motor or sensory disturbance, back pain, walking disturbance, and sphincter control deficit. The median time to diagnosis was 12.0 ± 37.0 months (range 3 days to 20 years). We found DID in 82.2% of the cases. 62.4% of the cases were defined as "unreasonable delay." The most common reasons for DID were "classical symptoms with a wrong diagnosis" and "delayed imaging."

CONCLUSIONS:

Based on the results of this study, the incidence of unreasonable delays in diagnosis of primary IDSCTs in Israel is very high. In order to shorten the time to diagnosis, primary and secondary care physicians need to increase their awareness of symptoms that may be associated with these lesions. We hereby offer feedback for care providers, relevant to the diagnostic workup of these patients. Such a feedback must be delivered by neurosurgeons to the community they are serving.

KEYWORDS:

Delay in diagnosis; dura; intramedullary; paraplegia; primary spinal cord tumors; spinal cord compression

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