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46 Sacral chordoma patients treated between 1987 and 2004 are reviewed. The importance of early diagnosis, adequate surgical margin and post operative radiotherapy for optimum outcome and survival is stressed.

There were 33 male and 13 female patients, with a mean age of 61 years (38–73 years). The surgical approach depended on the level and extent of the lesion, with an anteroposterior approach used in 23 and posterior approach in 17 patients. 20 had partial sacrectomy, 17 had subtotal sacrectomy and 3 underwent total sacrectomy. 6 patients were deemed inoperable and received palliative therapy. 14 patients received radiotherapy post-operatively. The length of average follow up was 4.27 years (range 2–15.7 years).

Low back pain was the most common presenting symptom (80%), and 50% patients had a palpable mass. The mean duration of symptoms prior to diagnosis was 2 years (range 1 month–10 years). Examination revealed a palpable mass in 7 both externally and on rectal examination. 10 had a palpable mass on rectal examination but not externally. 2 patients presented with multiple metastases and another 2 with widespread local disease. Excision was complete in 23 patients and incomplete in 17. Histology revealed dedifferentiation in 4. Complete excision margin was achieved in 69.6% through combined approach and 52.9% through posterior approach only. 24 patients (52%) had local recurrence. Without adjuvant radiotherapy the mean disease free period following complete excision was 3.5 years, compared to 0.9 years following incomplete excision. Adjuvant radiotherapy extended the mean disease free period following incomplete excision to 1.8 years.

The authors conclude that an early diagnosis and careful examination is important. Wide excision remains the mainstay of treatment. If excision is incomplete radiotherapy increases the disease free period although local recurrence is inevitable. The use of a combined approach increases the likelihood of complete excision.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Léana Fourie, CEO SAOA, PO Box 12918, Brandhof 9324 South Africa.