Treatment of metastatic epidural spinal disease has undergone significant changes over the last 20 years. No longer is indiscriminate decompressive laminectomy offered as the only surgical treatment. It carries all the risks associated with an invasive procedure and offers the patient little benefit unless it is used to remove disease isolated to the posterior elements. The existing literature suggests that surgery that frees the spinal cord at the site of compression in addition to reconstructing and stabilizing the spinal column is more effective at preserving and regaining neural function, notably ambulatory function and sphincter function, than conventional radiotherapy. It is also highly effective in relieving pain. The preliminary results ofa recent RCT provide the first class I evidence to support a reversal in the current philosophy of primary treatment for many patients with meta-static disease. Conventional radiotherapy has a clearly defined role as adjuvant therapy and as primary therapy in those who are unable to tolerate or benefit significantly from surgery. The role of nonconventional radiation therapy, such as IMRT and SRS, remains to be elucidated.

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