The role of radiotherapy for metastatic epidural spinal cord compression

Dirk Rades*, Janet L. Abrahm

*Corresponding author for this work
74 Citations (Scopus)


Radiotherapy alone is the most common treatment for metastatic epidural spinal cord compression (MESCC). Decompressive surgery followed by radiotherapy is generally indicated only in 10-15% of MESCC cases. Chemotherapy has an unclear role and may be considered for selected patients with hematological or germ-cell malignancies. If radiotherapy alone is given, it is important to select the appropriate regimen. Similar functional outcomes can be achieved with short-course radiotherapy regimens and longer-course radiotherapy regimens. Longer-course radiotherapy is associated with better local control of MESCC than short-course radiotherapy. Patients with a more favorable survival prognosis (expected survival of 6 months) should receive longer-course radiotherapy, as they may live long enough to develop a recurrence of MESCC. Patients with an expected survival of <6 months should be considered for short-course radiotherapy. A recurrence of MESCC in the previously irradiated region after short-course radiotherapy may be treated with another short-course of radiotherapy. After primary administration of longer-course radiotherapy, decompressive surgery should be performed if indicated. Alternatively, re-irradiation can be performed using high-precision techniques to reduce the cumulative dose received by the spinal cord. Larger prospective trials are required to better define the appropriate treatment for the individual patient.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Reviews Clinical Oncology
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)590-598
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 01.10.2010


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