Spine tumors 5 – Extradural lesions

Lesions outside the thecal sac are categorized as extradural lesions. Remember that everything that isn’t in the thecal sac is extradural, including discs, bones, meninges, nerves, and blood vessels. Anything that can occur in the surrounding areas can have extradural components. Look for lesions that have mass effect on the dura and deflect both the dura and the thecal sac to the side. Many of these lesions will require a biopsy as they have a differential diagnosis on imaging. CT and diffusion weighted imaging are useful adjunct tools that can help you refine your diagnosis.

The rest of this lecture consists of a mix of case presentations of different extradural lesions with tips on how to refine your differential diagnosis.

Case 1 – Disc extrusion. These are one of the most common extradural pathologies, particularly in patients with a history of degenerative disc disease. They tend to be contiguous with the disc and follow the disc in signal. Don’t be alarmed if they have enhancement, particularly if the enhancement pattern is peripheral. These can be confused with schwannomas and meningiomas.

Case 2 – Lymphoma. Lymphoma can involve the bones at any spinal level and can result in pathologic fracture. Anytime you see involvement of the pedicles and posterior elements you should worry about pathologic fracture, particularly if there is soft tissue or epidural involvement and enhancement. When the bone is involved, think about performing a CT to see the pattern and extent of bone destruction. This lesion has a mixed lytic and sclerotic appearance with bone destruction and was ultimately proven to be lymphoma.

CT pattern of different bone lesions. When you have a bone lesion, the trabecular pattern and pattern of bone destruction can be helpful. Lesions such as benign vascular malformations (hemangiomas) have a classic trabecular or corduroy pattern, while Paget’s disease is characterized by cortical thickening.

Case 3 – Osteosarcoma. Bone sarcomas are aggressive lesions that have bone destruction and can have soft tissue components. Their characteristic finding is matrix deposition which is best seen on CT. Osteosarcomas tend to have fluffy cloudlike matrix (osteoid) while chondrosarcomas have arcs and rings with interrupted calcification (chondroid). This was a case of osteosarcoma.

 Benign versus pathologic fractures. It can be challenging to differentiate fractures from bone insufficiency or trauma from those with an underlying lesion (pathologic fracture). Pathologic fractures are more likely to have bowing of the posterior cortex, a surrounding soft tissue mass, and abnormality on DWI. Looking for lesions elsewhere in the body can be a clue that it is metastatic disease, lymphoma, or myeloma. Sometimes these diseases can also have diffuse involvement of all of the marrow which can manifest as low T1 intensity throughout all the vertebral bodies.

Epidural tumor. Ventral epidural tumor can form a curtain or drape appearance because the dorsal dura is tacked down to the vertebral body at the midline. When it becomes more circumferential, it can extent completely around the thecal sac and extent both cranially and caudally.

Case 4 – Chordoma. Chordoma’s are aggressive tumors arising from notochordal remnant cells that can occur anywhere along the spinal axis. They are most common in the sacrum > clivus > remaining spine. Their characteristic appearance is a lytic lesion with bone destruction and marked T2 hyperintensity.

Enhancement pattern of extradural lesions. The enhancement pattern can help differentiate extradural lesions which may look similar. Tumors tend to have solid enhancement, abscess has peripheral enhancement, and a hematoma may have little or no enhancement.

Case 5 – Spinal dural arteriovenous fistula (dural AVF). These lesions have a classic presentation in older gentlemen with progressive myelopathy and are often missed. On MRI, they usually have edema and possibly enhancement in the cord, but the key finding is squiggly vascular enhancement along the margins of the cord. The pathology is from an abnormal connection between a vein and artery in the nerve root sleeve and can be treated endovascularly or with surgery.

Case 6 – Angiolipoma. These are fat containing lesions most common in the thoracic spine along the dorsal epidural space. They will have fat density on CT and can slowly increase in size, causing myelopathy.

Summary. There are a lot of things that can cause extradural masses, but they most commonly arise from the surrounding structures like discs and bones. Hopefully this video will help you refine your differential in the future.

The level of this lecture is appropriate for radiology residents, radiology fellows, and trainees in other specialties who have an interest in neuroradiology or may see patients with spine tumors.