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Patient outcomes and tumor control in single-fraction versus hypofractionated stereotactic body radiation therapy for spinal metastases

Presented at the 2020 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves

Christine Park, Elizabeth P. Howell, Vikram A. Mehta, Luis Ramirez, Meghan J. Price, Scott R. Floyd, John P. Kirkpatrick, Jordan Torok, Muhammad M. Abd-El-Barr, Isaac O. Karikari, and C. Rory Goodwin


Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) offers efficient, noninvasive treatment of spinal neoplasms. Single-fraction (SF) high-dose SBRT has a relatively narrow therapeutic window, while hypofractionated delivery of SBRT may have an improved safety profile with similar efficacy. Because the optimal approach of delivery is unknown, the authors examined whether hypofractionated SBRT improves pain and/or functional outcomes and results in better tumor control compared with SF-SBRT.


This is a single-institution retrospective study of adult patients with spinal metastases treated with SF- or three-fraction (3F) SBRT from 2008 to 2019. Demographics and baseline characteristics, radiographic data, and posttreatment outcomes at a minimum follow-up of 3 months are reported.


Of the 156 patients included in the study, 70 (44.9%) underwent SF-SBRT (median total dose 1700 cGy) and 86 (55.1%) underwent 3F-SBRT (median total dose 2100 cGy). At baseline, a higher proportion of patients in the 3F-SBRT group had a worse baseline profile, including severity of pain (p < 0.05), average use of pain medication (p < 0.001), and functional scores (p < 0.05) compared with the SF-SBRT cohort. At the 3-month follow-up, the 3F-SBRT cohort experienced a greater frequency of improvement in pain compared with the SF-SBRT group (p < 0.05). Furthermore, patients treated with 3F-SBRT demonstrated a higher frequency of improved Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) scores (p < 0.05) compared with those treated with SF-SBRT, with no significant difference in the frequency of improvement in modified Rankin Scale scores. Local tumor control did not differ significantly between the two cohorts.


Patients who received spinal 3F-SBRT more frequently achieved significant pain relief and an increased frequency of improvement in KPS compared with those treated with SF-SBRT. Local tumor control was similar in the two groups. Future work is needed to establish the relationship between fractionation schedule and clinical outcomes.

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Eric W. Sankey, Vikram A. Mehta, Timothy Y. Wang, Tracey T. Than, C. Rory Goodwin, Isaac O. Karikari, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Muhammad M. Abd-El-Barr, and Khoi D. Than

Spine surgery has been disproportionately impacted by medical liability and malpractice litigation, with the majority of claims and payouts related to procedural error. One common area for the potential avoidance of malpractice claims and subsequent payouts involves misplaced pedicle and/or lateral mass instrumentation. However, the medicolegal impact of misplaced screws on spine surgery has not been directly reported in the literature. The authors of the current study aimed to describe this impact in the United States, as well as to suggest a potential method for mitigating the problem.

This retrospective analysis of 68 closed medicolegal cases related to misplaced screws in spine surgery showed that neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons were equally named as the defendant (n = 32 and 31, respectively), and cases were most commonly due to misplaced lumbar pedicle screws (n = 41, 60.3%). Litigation resulted in average payouts of $1,204,422 ± $753,832 between 1995 and 2019, when adjusted for inflation. The median time to case closure was 56.3 (35.2–67.2) months when ruled in favor of the plaintiff (i.e., patient) compared to 61.5 (51.4–77.2) months for defendant (surgeon) verdicts (p = 0.117).