Achieving rigid spinal fixation can be challenging in patients with cancer-related instability, as factors such as osteopenia, radiation, and immunosuppression adversely affect bone quality. Augmenting pedicle screws with cement is a strategy to overcome construct failure. This study aimed to assess the safety and efficacy of cement augmentation with fenestrated pedicle screws in patients undergoing posterior, open thoracolumbar surgery for spinal metastases.
A retrospective review was performed for patients who underwent surgery for cancer-related spine instability from 2016 to 2019 at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Patient demographics, surgical details, radiographic characteristics, patterns of cement extravasation, complications, and prospectively collected Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Pain Interference and Pain Intensity scores were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Logistic regression was performed to determine factors associated with cement extravasation.
Sixty-nine patients underwent open posterior surgery with a total of 502 cement-augmented screws (mean 7.8 screws per construct). The median follow-up period for those who survived past 90 days was 25.3 months (IQR 10.8–34.6 months). Thirteen patients (18.8%) either died within 90 days or were lost to follow-up. Postoperative CT was performed to assess the instrumentation and patterns of cement extravasation. There was no screw loosening, pullout, or failure. The rate of cement extravasation was 28.9% (145/502), most commonly through the segmental veins (77/145, 53.1%). Screws breaching the lateral border of the pedicle but with fenestrations within the vertebral body were associated with a higher risk of leakage through the segmental veins compared with screws without any breach (OR 8.77, 95% CI 2.84–29.79; p < 0.001). Cement extravasation did not cause symptoms except in 1 patient who developed a symptomatic thoracic radiculopathy requiring decompression. There was 1 case of asymptomatic pulmonary cement embolism. Patients experienced significant pain improvement at the 3-month follow-up, with decreases in Pain Interference (mean change 15.8, 95% CI 14.5–17.1; p < 0.001) and Pain Intensity (mean change 28.5, 95% CI 26.7–30.4; p < 0.001).
Cement augmentation through fenestrated pedicle screws is a safe and effective option for spine stabilization in the cancer population. The risk of clinically significant adverse events from cement extravasation is very low.