Treatment outcome and complications in patients treated for malignant epidural spinal cord compression (SCC)

James A. Martenson, Richard G. Evans, Margart R. Lie, Duane M. Ilstrup, Robert P. Dinapoli, Michael J. Ebersold, John D. Earle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Sixty-seven episodes of spinal cord compression (SCC) were retrospectively evaluated regarding presenting features and treatment outcome. They were divided into three motor function groups. Group 1 consisted of 35 ambulatory patients, group 2 of 29 non-ambulatory patients and group 3 of three paraplegic patients. Lower extremity weakness was usually a late presenting feature and was frequently rapidly progressive. We suggest that SCC is an emergency, as successful treatment is unlikely if motor function is poor. All of the group 1 patients completing treatment remained ambulatory, in contrast to group 2 patients, in which only 25% regained the ability to walk, and group 3 patients, none of whom regained the ability to walk. Initial surgery or initial radiotherapy appeared to be equally effective in restoring or maintaining the ability to walk. Survival of patients ambulatory at completion of treatment was superior to that of non-ambulatory patients (p < 0.03). Analysis of steroid-related complications suggested that frequent, severe and sometimes fatal complications can result from prolonged use with these drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neuro-oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1985


  • decompressive laminectomy
  • radiation therapy
  • spinal cord compression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cancer Research


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