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Arjun Sahgal, Mark Bilsky, Eric L. Chang, Lijun Ma, Yoshiya Yamada, Laurence D. Rhines, Daniel Létourneau, Matthew Foote, Eugene Yu, David A. Larson and Michael G. Fehlings

Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) for spinal metastases is an emerging therapeutic option aimed at delivering high biologically effective doses to metastases while sparing the adjacent normal tissues. This technique has emerged following advances in radiation delivery that include sophisticated radiation treatment planning software, body immobilization devices, and capabilities of detecting and correcting patient positional deviations with imageguided radiotherapy. There are limited clinical data specifically supporting the role of SBRT as a superior alternative to conventional radiation in the postoperative patient. The focus of this review was to examine the evidence pertaining to spine SBRT in the treatment of spinal metastases and to provide a comprehensive analysis of published patterns of failure, with emphasis on the postoperative patient.

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Ameen Al-Omair, Roger Smith, Tim-Rasmus Kiehl, Louis Lao, Eugene Yu, Eric M. Massicotte, Julia Keith, Michael G. Fehlings and Arjun Sahgal

Spine stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is increasingly being used to treat metastatic spinal tumors. As the experience matures, high rates of vertebral compression fracture (VCF) are being observed. What is unknown is the mechanism of action; it has been postulated but not confirmed that radiation itself is a contributing factor. This case report describes 2 patients who were treated with spine SRS who subsequently developed signal changes on MRI consistent with tumor progression and VCF; however, biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of radiation-induced necrosis in 1 patient and fibrosis in the other. Radionecrosis is a rare and serious side effect of high-dose radiation therapy and represents a diagnostic challenge, as the authors have learned from years of experience with brain SRS. These cases highlight the issues in the new era of spine SRS with respect to relying on imaging alone as a means of determining true tumor progression. In those scenarios in which it is unclear based on imaging if true tumor progression has occurred, the authors recommend biopsy to rule out radiation-induced effects within the bone prior to initiating salvage therapies.

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Michael W. Chan, Isabelle Thibault, Eshetu G. Atenafu, Eugene Yu, B. C. John Cho, Daniel Letourneau, Young Lee, Albert Yee, Michael G. Fehlings and Arjun Sahgal


The authors performed a pattern-of-failure analysis, with a focus on epidural disease progression, in patients treated with postoperative spine stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT).


Of the 70 patients with 75 spinal metastases (cases) treated with postoperative spine SBRT, there were 26 cases of local disease recurrence and 25 cases with a component of epidural disease progression. Twenty-four of the 25 cases had preoperative epidural disease with subsequent epidural disease progression, and this cohort was the focus of this epidural-specific pattern-of-failure investigation. Preoperative, postoperative, and follow-up MRI scans were reviewed, and epidural disease was characterized based on location according to a system in which the vertebral anatomy is divided into 6 sectors, with the anterior compartment comprising Sectors 1, 2, and 6, and the posterior compartment comprising Sectors 3, 4, and 5.


Patterns of epidural progression are reported specifically for the 24 cases with preoperative epidural disease and subsequent epidural progression. Epidural disease progression within the posterior compartment was observed to be significantly lower in those with preoperative epidural disease confined to the anterior compartment than in those with preoperative epidural disease involving both anterior and posterior compartments (56% vs 93%, respectively; p = 0.047). In a high proportion of patients with epidural disease progression, treatment failure was found in the anterior compartment, including both those with preoperative epidural disease confined to the anterior compartment and those with preoperative epidural disease involving both anterior and posterior compartments (100% vs. 73%, respectively). When epidural disease was confined to the anterior compartment on the preoperative and postoperative MRIs, no epidural disease progression was observed in Sector 4, which is the most posterior sector. Postoperative epidural disease characteristics alone were not predictive of the pattern of epidural treatment failure.


Reviewing the extent of epidural disease on preoperative MRI is imperative when planning postoperative SBRT. When epidural disease is confined to the anterior epidural sectors pre- and postoperatively, covering the entire epidural space circumferentially with a prophylactic “donut” distribution may not be needed.