Predictors of ambulatory function after decompressive surgery for metastatic epidural spinal cord compression

Kaisorn L. Chaichana, Graeme F. Woodworth, Daniel M. Sciubba, Matthew J. McGirt, Timothy J. Witham, Ali Bydon, Jean Paul Wolinsky, Ziya Gokaslan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Metastatic epidural spinal cord compression (MESCC) is a relatively common and debilitating complication of metastatic disease that often results in neurological deficits. This study was designed to explore associations with maintaining and regaining ambulatory function after decompressive surgery for MESCC. METHODS: Seventy-eight patients undergoing decompressive surgery for MESCC at an academic tertiary care institution between 1995 and 2005 were retrospectively reviewed. Fisher's exact analysis was used to compare preoperative ambulatory and nonambulatory patients. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression was used to identify associations with either maintaining or regaining the ability to walk. RESULTS: Patients were followed for 7.1 ± 1.6 (mean ± standard deviation) months after surgery. Preoperative nonambulatory patients required more extensive surgery (increased operative spinal levels and number of laminectomies) and had more surgical site complications (wound dehiscences and cerebrospinal fluid leaks) compared with preoperative ambulatory patients. From the multivariate analysis, preoperative ability to walk (relative risk [RR], 2.320; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.301-4.416; P < 0.01) independently increased the likelihood of ambulation at the last follow-up evaluation 2.3-fold. Pathological vertebral compression fracture at presentation (RR, 0.471; 95% CI, 0.235-0.864; P = 0.01) independently decreased the likelihood of ambulation at the time of the last follow-up evaluation 2.1-fold. For patients unable to walk at the time of surgery, preoperative radiation therapy (RR, 0.406; 95% CI, 0.124-0.927; P = 0.03) decreased the likelihood of regaining the ability to walk 2.5-fold. Symptoms present for less than 48 hours (RR, 2.925; 95% CI, 1.133-2.925; P = 0.02) and postoperative radiotherapy (RR, 2.595; 95% CI, 1.039-8.796; P = 0.04) independently increased the likelihood of regaining ambulatory ability 2.9- and 2.6-fold, respectively, by the time of last follow-up evaluation. CONCLUSION: The identification of these associations with neurological outcome may help guide in the preservation or return of ambulation after surgery for patients with MESCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-691
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Metastatic spine tumors
  • Outcome
  • Predictors
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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