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J Neurosurg. 1996 Oct;85(4):618-24.

Disseminated ependymomas of the central nervous system.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, New York University Medical Center, New York, USA.


Ependymomas are rare central nervous system (CNS) neoplasms that occasionally disseminate along the neuraxis or to extraneural sites. Definitive criteria predictive of dissemination have yet to be determined. One hundred forty patients with CNS ependymoma (88 primary spinal and 52 primary intracranial tumors) were surgically treated by the senior author (F.J.E.) between 1986 and 1994. Sixteen patients (11.4%) demonstrated tumor dissemination. The disseminated group consisted of 11 (12.5%) of 88 primary spinal and five (9.6%) of 52 primary intracranial ependymomas. The authors retrospectively reviewed the patients with CNS ependymoma and have identified several characteristics associated with dissemination from the primary tumor site. The mean time from diagnosis to dissemination was 6.8 years. The patients with disseminated disease were younger (16.8 vs. 28.3 years old, p = 0.02), had fewer gross-total resections (29% vs. 68%, p = 0.015), and had tumors with higher proliferative indices (MIB-1 staining, 13.14% vs. 2.06%, p = 0.02). High-grade tumors had a mean proliferation index of 21%, versus 2.4% and 1.6% for myxopapillary and low-grade tumors, respectively (p = 0.0003). In contrast to previous studies, tumor histology was the most significant variable for time to dissemination as determined by multivariate analysis (p = 0.008). Myxopapillary and high-grade tumors were 3.6 and 5.6 times more likely to have a shorter time to dissemination than low-grade tumors. In addition, dissemination is associated with a worse prognosis. At follow-up review, 31% of patients with disseminated disease had died compared to 7% of patients without dissemination (p = 0.04). It is concluded that younger patients with subtotal resections, myxopapillary or high-grade histology, and tumors with high proliferative indices are at substantial risk for the development of disseminated disease during their clinical course.

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