Challenges in early operative approaches to intramedullary spinal cord tumors: Harvey Cushing's perspective

Courtney Pendleton, Jordina Rincon-Torroella, Ziya L. Gokaslan, George I. Jallo, Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Although Harvey Cushing was mostly known for his contributions to brain tumor surgery, he was also a pioneer in the development of spinal cord surgery. This lesser known facet of Cushing's career can provide a fresh and unique perspective into how the founders of neurosurgery surmounted early challenges in the field. The authors bring to light and examine for the first time Cushing's unpublished writing "Technique of Laminectomy" along with his first 3 documented intramedullary spinal cord tumor (IMSCT) cases at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The authors draw lessons from the challenges in pathological classification, preoperative diagnosis, tumor localization, and surgical technique of that time. Although Cushing's attempts at exploration and resection of IMSCT as described here were of limited success, his ability to adapt his clinical and surgical technique to the challenges of the time, as well as develop skills to successfully manipulate the spinal cord during these exploratory procedures without the patients incurring neurological damage, postoperative infection, or complications, is a testament to his determination to advance the field and his meticulous operative technique. In spite of the limitations imposed on the pioneer neurosurgeons, Harvey Cushing and his contemporaries persevered through many of the challenges and built an essential part of neurosurgery's common story.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-418
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2015


  • Harvey Cushing
  • Intramedullary spinal cord tumors
  • Oncology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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