In recent decades, progress in the medical management of cancer has been significant, resulting in considerable extension of survival for patients with metastatic disease. This has, in turn, led to increased attention to the optimal surgical management of bone lesions, including metastases to the spine. In addition, there has been a shift in focus toward improving quality of life and reducing hospital stay for these patients, and many minimally invasive techniques have been introduced with the aim of reducing the morbidity associated with more traditional open approaches. The goal of this study was to assess the efficacy of long-segment percutaneous pedicle screw stabilization for the treatment of instability associated with thoracolumbar spine metastases in neurologically intact patients.
This study was a retrospective review of data from a prospective database. The authors analyzed cases in which long-segment percutaneous pedicle screw fixation was performed for the palliative treatment of thoracolumbar spinal instability due to spinal metastases in neurologically intact patients. All of the patients included in the study underwent surgery between January 2014 and May 2015 at the authors' institution. Postoperative radiation therapy was planned within 10 days following the stabilization in all cases. Clinical and radiological follow-up assessments were planned for 3 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year after surgery. Outcome was assessed by means of standard postoperative evaluation and oncological and spinal quality of life measures (European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Version 3.0 [EORTC QLQ-C30] and Oswestry Disability Index [ODI], respectively). Moreover, 5 patients were given an activity monitoring device for recording the distance walked daily; preoperative and postoperative daily distances were compared.
Data from 17 cases were analyzed. There were no complications, and patients showed improvement in pain level and quality of life from the early postoperative period on. The mean ODI score was 62.7 (range 40–84) preoperatively, 35.4 (range 24–59) on postoperative Day 3, and 46.1 (range 30–76) at 3 weeks, 37.6 (range 25–59) at 6 weeks, 34.0 (range 24–59) at 3 months, 39.1 (range 22–64) at 6 months, and 30.0 (range 20–55) at 1 year after screw placement. The mean ODI was significantly improved in the first 45 days (p < 0.001). Improvement was also evident in scores for functional and symptomatic scales of the EORTC QLQ-C30. All patients underwent postoperative radiation therapy within 10 days (mean 7.5). All patients (n = 5) with an activity monitoring device showed improvement in daily walking distance.
Less-invasive palliative treatment for advanced spinal metastases is promising as part of a multidisciplinary approach to the care of patients with metastatic disease. The results of this study indicate that percutaneous surgery may allow for rapid improvement in quality of life and walking ability for patients with thoracolumbar instability due to spine metastases. Long-segment percutaneous screw fixation followed by early radiation therapy appears to be a safe and effective treatment option for providing solid and durable stability and improved quality of life for these patients.