Subependymomas are slow growing WHO grade 1 tumours, typically attached to the ventricular wall of the fourth or lateral ventricles. Spinal subependymomas are rarer still and experience of their biological characteristics remains limited.
A 29-year-old lady presented with chronic attacks of itchy dysaesthesia involving the left hand, neck and trunk, and associated with ipsilateral leg spasms. Recent symptomatic change involved occasional limping and left sided facial numbness but no pain. MRI showed an intradural mass surrounding most of the cervical spinal cord, which appeared scalloped extrinsically, rather than diffusely expanded, by a seemingly extramedullary lesion. At operation, the cord appeared expanded, with no clear margin or distinction between tumour and cord tissue; and the tumour was found to be intramedullary with an exophytic component, rather than extramedullary. Moderate reduction of the left abductor pollicis brevis evoked potential led to a pause in surgery. There was transient hand weakness postoperatively with full recovery, and no radiological change in the tumour morphology for a further 6 years.
An intramedullary tumour such as a spinal cord subependymoma can be mistaken radiologically for an extramedullary tumour, such as an epidermoid. If a subependymoma is suspected, given its indolent course and long-term survival, caution in the extent of surgical resection is advisable in order to avoid surgical morbidity.
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The input of Professor James Ironside, Consultant Neuropathologist, is gratefully acknowledged.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Demetriades, A.K., Soleiman, H.A. & Kealey, S. A case of chronic dysaesthesia in the torso and upper limbs: lessons from a cervical spinal cord subependymoma. Spinal Cord Ser Cases 7, 52 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41394-021-00416-3