To seek an optimal treatment plan from the results of treatment for metastatic disease of the spine in children.
An 8-year retrospective study of children with metastatic disease of the spine. Imaging studies were reviewed and treatment modalities analysed.
The divisions of pediatric orthopedics and pediatric neurosurgery at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa.
All children seen between April 1980 and December 1987 who had lesions metastatic to the spine by hematogenous or direct extension. There were 20 children (15 boys, 5 girls) with a mean age at the time of diagnosis of 9.5 years. Follow-up ranged from 2 weeks to 108 months. One child was lost to follow-up.
Eleven children underwent laminectomy and decompression. Of the 14 neurologically compromised children, 5 received chemotherapy and radiotherapy and 9 received chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.
Type of metastatic lesion, vertebrae involved and response to therapy.
Vertebrae involved with metastases were as follows: cervical (3), thoracic (5), lumbar (8) and multilevel (2). Meninges were involved in 2 cases. The most common causes of metastatic spinal involvement were neuroblastoma (4 cases) and astrocytoma (6 cases). Pathologic fractures occurred in 4 children and kyphoscoliosis in 4. Spinal cord paresis developed in 14 of the 20 children. Of the 6 children who survived from 48 to 108 months, 5 had tumours of neural origin, 4 being astrocytomas. Children with neuroblastoma or leukemic infiltration had a good initial response to chemotherapy. Five of the 6 surviving children had astrocytomas, and 5 were treated by surgical decompression.
Metastatic disease of the spine in children secondary to astrocytoma should be treated aggressively, but from the experience gained from this study it is impossible to devise a rigid treatment plan for each type of metastatic tumour. The choice of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery depends on the type of tumour, the age of the child and whether or not the spinal cord is compromised.