Chordoma of the thoracic spine in an 89-year-old

Fontes, Ricardo; O'Toole, John
June 2012
European Spine Journal;Jun2012, Vol. 21, p428
Academic Journal
Study design: Case report and literature review. Objective: Report the highly unusual presentation of thoracic spine chordoma in an 89-year-old and review existing literature as it impacts treatment in the elderly. Summary of background data: Chordomas are infrequent tumors of the spine that commonly present during mid-adulthood at the spheno-occipital or sacrococcygeal junctions. The mobile spine is affected in 10-15% of cases but chordomas are extremely rare in the thoracic spine. Chordoma rarely enters the differential diagnosis of spinal tumors in elderly patients, for whom metastases and multiple myeloma are by far the most common. Methods: A case report is detailed of an 89-year-old male presenting with incapacitating pain and early signs of thoracic myelopathy. A lytic, expanding lesion of the T10 vertebral body with epidural spinal cord compression was identified. In the absence of evidence of other primary tumor, a CT-guided needle biopsy revealed chordoma. A literature review of reported thoracic spine chordomas was also performed. Results: An intralesional posterolateral resection and reconstruction was performed with good results and no recurrence at 13 months' follow-up. 30 reports of thoracic spine chordomas were identified in the literature since 1902. Mean age of presentation at 35.7 years is earlier than for most chordomas. The oldest previously reported patient was 68-year-old. Neurological impairment at presentation is rare with the usual presenting symptom being pain. Response to radiation and chemotherapy is limited. 5-year survival rates range from 50 to 60%. Conclusion: Chordoma is a highly uncommon epidural neoplasm of the thoracic spine and is vanishingly rare in elderly patients. This report documents the oldest reported patient with thoracic spine chordoma at 89-year-old. Their locally aggressive behavior typically prompts consideration of aggressive surgical resection. When tailored to the individual patient, such procedures are feasible without excessive morbidity even in elderly patients.


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