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Jeremy C. Wang, Patrick Boland, Nandita Mitra, Yoshiya Yamada, Eric Lis, Michael Stubblefield and Mark H. Bilsky

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.

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Michael D. Stubblefield, Katarzyna Ibanez, Elyn R. Riedel, Ori Barzilai, Ilya Laufer, Eric Lis, Yoshiya Yamada and Mark H. Bilsky


The object of this study was to determine the percentage of high-dose (1800–2600 cGy) single-fraction stereotactic radiosurgery (SF-SRS) treatments to the spine that result in peripheral nervous system (PNS) injury.


All patients treated with SF-SRS for primary or metastatic spine tumors between January 2004 and May 2013 and referred to the Rehabilitation Medicine Service for evaluation and treatment of neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, or functional impairments or pain were retrospectively identified.


Five hundred fifty-seven SF-SRS treatments in 447 patients resulted in 14 PNS injuries in 13 patients. All injures resulted from SF-SRS delivered to the cervical or lumbosacral spine at 2400 cGy. The overall percentage of SF-SRS treatments resulting in PNS injury was 2.5%, increasing to 4.5% when the thoracic spine was excluded from analysis. The median time to symptom onset following SF-SRS was 10 months (range 4–32 months). The plexus (cervical, brachial, and/or lumbosacral) was affected clinically and/or electrophysiologically in 12 (86%) of 14 cases, the nerve root in 2 (14%) of 14, and both in 6 (43%) of 14 cases. All patients experienced pain and most (93%) developed weakness. Peripheral nervous system injuries were CTCAE Grade 1 in 14% of cases, 2 in 64%, and 3 in 21%. No dose relationship between SF-SRS dose and PNS injury was detected.


Single-fraction SRS to the spine can result in PNS injury with major implications for function and quality of life.