Cancer cells sometimes grow around the spinal cord and cause compression on the spinal cord which results in neurological damage. Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression (MSCC) can result in irreversible damage including paraplegia and is considered an oncological emergency. 

It is important that all health professionals are able to:

  • recognise the signs and symptoms of metastatic spinal cord compression
  • assess the severity
  • initiate the right interventions and escalate care appropriately.

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Case study podcast

Brooke Barrett was a graduate nurse when she was first exposed to MSCC. She shares career case studies of managing the serious oncological emergency and how her early experience has shaped her career in both the adult and paediatric setting. 

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Reference list

  1. Throvardur R. et al. Emergencies in hematology and oncology. Mayo clin proc. 92(4):609-641, 2017.
  2. Patchell RA, Tibbs PA, Regine WF. Direct decompressive surgical resection in the treatment of spinal cord compression caused by metastatic cancer: a randomised trial. The Lancet. 366:643–648, 2015.
  3. Robson P: Metastatic spinal cord compression: a rare but important complication of cancer. Clinical 14(5): 542-545, 2014.
  4. Lawton AJ, Lee KA, Cheville AL, et al. Assessment and Management of Patients with Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression: A Multidisciplinary Review. J Clin Oncol 37(1):61-71, 2017.
  5. Conti A, Acker G, Kluge A, et al: Decision Making in Patients With Metastatic Spine. The Role of Minimally Invasive Treatment Modalities. Frontiers in oncology 9:915, 2019.
  6. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Metastatic spinal cord compression in adults: risk assessment, diagnosis, and management, Clinical Guideline 75. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence website. Published November 2008. Accessed February 15, 2021. 
  7. Mariano Provencio Pulla, 2016. ESMO Handbook of oncological emergencies. 2nd edn, ESMO press.


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