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Intraspinal tumors

The term spinal canal refers to the canal from the large skull opening (foramen magnum) to the tail bone (coccyx). The term intraspinal tumors refers to all tumors in the spinal canal that emanate from the spinal cord (medulla spinalis), spinal membranes (meninges), spinal nerves and the filamental end of the spinal cord (filum terminale). The three spinal membranes that surround the spinal cord are called pia mater, the arachnoid mater and dura mater.

The tumors are defined according to anatomical localization and histology.

The most common intramedullary (in the actual spinal cord) types of tumor are:

  • ependymoma 
  • astrocytoma 
  • capillary hemangioblastoma 

The most common intradural/extramedullary types of tumor are:

  • Schwannoma
  • meningioma
  • neurofibroma

The most common extradural types of tumor are:

  • metastases

The majority of extradural and intramedullary tumors are malignant, whereas over 90% of intradural/extramedullary tumors are benign.


The incidence of primary intraspinal tumors is approximately 1.0 per 100,000 per year.

Extraspinal and intraspinal metastases from extraspinal cancers occur more frequently than primary tumors. Through the increased use of MR imaging more of these metastases are discovered and treated.

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