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Long-term outcome of total and near-total resection of spinal cord lipomas and radical reconstruction of the neural placode: part I-surgical technique.

Neurosurgery 2009 September
OBJECTIVE: Partial resection of complex spinal cord lipomas is associated with a high rate of symptomatic recurrence caused by retethering, presumably promoted by a tight content-container relationship between the spinal cord and the dural sac, and incomplete detachment of the terminal neural placode from residual lipoma. Since 1991, we have performed more than 250 total/near-total resections of complex lipomas with radical reconstruction of the neural placodes. Sixteen years of follow-up have proven the long-term benefits of this technique. Part I of this series introduces our technique of total resection and reports the immediate surgical results. Part II will analyze the long-term outcomes of both total and partial resection and identify the factors affecting outcome.

METHODS: From 1991 to 2006, 238 patients (age range, 2 months-72 years) with dorsal, transitional, and chaotic lipomas underwent total or near-total lipoma resection and radical placode reconstruction. Eighty-four percent of the patients were children younger than 18 years and 16% were adults. The technique consisted of wide bony exposure, complete unhinging of the lateral adhesions of the lipoma-placode assembly from the inner dura, untethering of the terminal conus, radical resection of the fat off the neural plate along a white fibrous plane at the cord-lipoma interface, meticulous pia-to-pia neurulation of the supple neural placode with microsutures, and expansile duraplasty with a bovine pericardial graft. Elaborate electrophysiological monitoring was used.

RESULTS: Three postoperative observations concern us. The first is that of the 238 patients, 138 (58%) had no residual fat on postoperative magnetic resonance imaging; 81 patients (36%) had less than 20 mm3 of residual fat, the majority of which were small bits enclosed by neurulation; and 19 patients (8%), mainly of the chaotic lipoma group, had more than 20 mm of fat. There are no significant differences in the amount of residual fat among lipoma types, but redo lipomas are more likely than virgin (previously unoperated on) lipomas to have residual fat by a factor of 2 (P = 0.0214). The second concern is that the state of the reconstructed placode is objectively measured by the cord-sac ratio, obtained by dividing the sagittal diameter of the reconstructed neural tube by the sagittal diameter of the thecal sac. A total of 162 patients (68%) had cord-sac ratios less than 30% (low), 61 (25.6%) had ratios between 30% and 50% (medium), and only 15 (6.3%) had high ratios of more than 50%. Seventy-four percent of patients with virgin lipomas had low cord-sac ratios compared with 56.3% in the redo lipoma patients. The overall distribution of cord-sac ratio is significantly different between redo and virgin lipomas (P = 0.00376) but not among lipoma types. Finally, the incidence of combined neurological and urological complications was 4.2%. The combined cerebrospinal fluid leak and wound infection/dehiscence incidence was 2.5%. Both sets of surgical morbidity compared favorably with the published rates reported for partial resection.

CONCLUSION: Total/near-total resection of spinal cord lipomas and complete reconstruction of the neural placode can be achieved with low surgical morbidity and a high yield of agreeable postoperative cord-sac relationship. Some large rambling transitional lipomas and most chaotic lipomas are the most difficult lesions to resect and tend to have less favorable results on postresection magnetic resonance imaging.

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