Object. Patients with metastatic spine tumors often have multicolumn involvement and high-grade epidural compression, requiring circumferential decompression and instrumentation. Secondary medical and oncological issues add morbidity to combined approaches. The authors present their experience in using the single-stage posterolateral transpedicular approach (PTA) to decompress the spine circumferentially and to place instrumentation.
Methods. From September 1997 to February 2004, 140 patients with spine metastases underwent the PTA. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed high-grade spinal cord compression in 120 patients (86%) and lytic vertebral body destruction in all patients. Preoperatively 84 patients (60%) received radiotherapy directed to the involved level and 42 (30%) underwent tumor embolization. Following circumferential decompression, all patients underwent anterior reconstruction with polymethylmethacrylate and Steinmann pins, and posterior segmental fixation.
The median operative time was 5.1 hours, the median blood loss was 1500 ml, and the median hospital stay was 9 days. Ninety-six percent of the patients experienced postoperative pain improvement and improvement in or stabilization of neurological status. In 51 nonambulatory patients with poor Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group grades, 75% regained the ability to walk. One month postoperatively 90% of patients achieved good-to-excellent performance scores.
The overall median patient survival time was 7.7 months. Patients with colon and lung carcinomas had significantly shorter survival times. Major operative complications occurred in 20 patients (14.3%). Wound complications occurred in 16 patients (11.4%), but this was not correlated with preoperative radiation treatment.
Conclusions. The PTA allows circumferential epidural tumor decompression and the placement of anterior and posterior spinal column instrumention. Immediate spinal stability is achieved without the use of brace therapy. This technique achieved a high success rate for pain palliation, neurological preservation, and functional improvement, while avoiding the morbidity associated with combined approaches.