The role of 5-aminolevulinic acid in spinal tumor surgery: a review

John V. Wainwright, Toshiki Endo, Jared B. Cooper, Teiji Tominaga, Meic H. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Primary intradural spinal neoplasms account for a small proportion of central nervous system tumors. The primary treatment for these tumors consists of maximal safe resection and preservation of neurologic function. Gross total resection, which is associated with the lowest rate of tumor recurrence and longer progression-free survival for most histologies, can be difficult to achieve. Currently, the use of 5-aminolevulinc acid (5-ALA) which takes advantage of Protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) fluorescence, is a well-established technique for improving resection of malignant cerebral gliomas. This technique is being increasingly applied to other cerebral neoplasms, and multiple studies have attempted to evaluate the utility of 5-ALA-aided resection of spinal neoplasms. Methods: The authors reviewed the existing literature on the use of 5-ALA and PpIX fluorescence as an aid to resection of primary and secondary spinal neoplasms by searching the PUBMED and EMBASE database for records up to March 2018. Data was abstracted from all studies describing spinal neurosurgical uses in the English language. Results: In the reviewed studies, the most useful fluorescence was observed in meningiomas, ependymomas, drop metastases from cerebral gliomas, and hemangiopericytomas of the spine, which is consistent with applications in cerebral neoplasms. Conclusions: The available literature is significantly limited by a lack of standardized methods for measurement and quantification of 5-ALA fluorescence. The results of the reviewed studies should guide future development of rational trial protocols for the use of 5-ALA guided resection in spinal neoplasms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-584
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuro-Oncology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb 15


  • 5-Aminolevulinc acid
  • Fluorescence guided resection
  • Protoporphyrin IX
  • Spinal neoplasm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cancer Research


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