Forty-three patients with renal-cell carcinoma underwent treatment for spinal cord compression over a 7-year period. Of these, 32 patients underwent surgery, while 11 patients underwent radiation alone. Before operation, 25 patients had relapsed following prior radiation, while seven others received postoperative radiation. A more aggressive surgical approach, tailored to the site of compression within the spinal canal, was used with the majority undergoing gross total tumor resection by an anterior approach. Immediate stability of the spine was achieved with methyl-methacrylate reconstruction of the resected segments. Preoperative spinal angiography with embolization of hypervascular tumors was carried out in eight patients. Patient parameters in the surgical and irradiated groups were comparable, except that a greater proportion of the radiation alone group had more than one organ system involved (64% v 44%). The median survival of the surgically treated patients was 13 months, compared with 3 months for those treated by radiation alone. In addition, a greater proportion of the surgically treated patients were benefitted neurologically (70%) compared with those treated by radiation (45%). With the development of effective surgical treatment for spinal metastases, early consideration for surgical treatment (before radiation) should be considered in selected patients. Preoperative spinal angiography and embolization are recommended whenever feasible to minimize intraoperative blood loss.