Mohammed Alshareef, Gibson Klapthor, Ali Alawieh, Stephen Lowe, Bruce Frankel

October 2021, Volume 30, Issue 10, pp 2906 - 2914 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-06880-7

First Online: 30 May 2021


Metastatic epidural spinal cord compression (MESCC) is a debilitating sequela of cancer that results in pain, disability, and neurologic deficits. Surgical techniques have included open surgical (OS) techniques with anterior and/or posterior decompression and fusion procedures. Further technical evolution has led to minimally invasive spinal (MIS) decompression and fusion. The objective of this study is to compare MIS to OS techniques in the treatment of thoracolumbar MESCC.


A review of the literature was performed using PubMed database. Inclusion criteria included patients 18 years or older, thoracolumbar MESCC, and surgeries with instrumented fusion. A total of 451 articles met the inclusion criteria and further analysis narrowed them down to 81 articles. Variables collected included blood loss, length of stay, operative time, pre- and postoperative Frankel grade, and complications.


A total of 5726 papers were collected, with a total of 81 papers meeting final inclusion criteria: 26 papers with MIS technique and 55 with OS. A total of 2267 patients were evaluated. They were split into three surgical subtypes of MIS and OS: posterior decompression and fusion, partial corpectomy, and complete corpectomy. Overall, MIS had lower operative time, blood loss, and complications compared to OS. A timeline analysis showed reduction of complication rates in MIS surgery between papers published over a 28-year period.


MESCC carries significant morbidity and mortality. Surgical approaches for palliative treatment should account for this fact. We conclude that MIS techniques offer a viable alternative to traditional OS approaches with lower overall morbidity and complications.

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