Intradural extramedullary spinal tumours

Dr Craig Hacking and Dr Sara Wein et al.

Intradural extramedullary neoplasms are located outside the spinal cord but within the dural sheath. 

The most common presenting symptoms include weakness, back pain and radicular pain.

Schwannomas are the most common intradural extramedullary spinal lesions (30% cases), followed by meningiomas (25% cases) 2. In the pediatric population, the most common intradural extramedullary neoplasms are leptomeningeal metastases resulting from primary brain tumours.

Intradural extramedullary masses can have a number of general morphological features:

  • purely intradural lesions may not be shown
  • extradural extension
  • bone erosion and sclerosis
  • heavy calcification is rare in spinal meningiomas and nerve shealth tumours; a heavily calcified intraspinal mass is usually extradural extruded disc material
  • deviation of the spinal cord away from mass
  • ipsilateral subarachnoid space enlargement
  • contralateral subarachnoid space effacement
  • intradural filling defect outlined by sharp meniscus of contrast (“meniscus sign”)
  • the subarachnoid space is blocked and CSF above the block remains unopacified.

MRI is the modality of choice to fully characterise these masses, and the appearance will vary depending on the histology, and is thus discussed as part of individual articles (see above list). 

The key benefits of MRI over other modalities, is the ability to clearly define the relationship of the mass to the cord, to identify secondary lesions, to identify large feeding/draining vessels and hopefully to give a pre-operative diagnosis. 

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Article information

rID: 19239
Section: Gamuts
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Intradural extramedullary spinal tumors
  • Intradural extramedullary spinal neoplasms

Cases and figures

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    Case 1: schwannoma
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