The management of malignant spinal cord compression has been reviewed recently and attention drawn to the adverse effects of laminectomy. Data from that review suggested that the presence of vertebral body collapse could have an important negative effect on the outcome of laminectomy. However, there was only scant evidence available in the literature to support that conclusion. Eighty consecutive patients with thoracic spinal cord compression due to a single metastasis treated by laminectomy are reported here. It is seen that the presence of vertebral collapse signified: a much reduced chance of regaining the ability to walk; a much greater possibility of further neurological deterioration; and a major increase in the incidence of post-operative spinal instability. The role of laminectomy in the management of such patients needs to be further questioned and alternative therapeutic measures such as radiotherapy, posterior spinal instrumentation or anterior surgery should be strongly considered in the presence of vertebral body collapse.