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Eur Spine J. 2006 Feb;15(2):196-202. Epub 2005 Mar 3.

Survival, complications and outcome in 282 patients operated for neurological deficit due to thoracic or lumbar spinal metastases.

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  • 1Oncology Service, Department of Orthopedics, Karolinska Hospital, 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden.


We present survival, neurological function, and complications in a consecutive series of 282 patients operated for spinal metastases from January 1990 to December 2001. Our main surgical indication throughout this time period was neurological deficit rather than pain. Metastases from cancer of the prostate accounted for 40%, breast 15%, kidney 8%, and lung 7%. In 78% the level of decompression was thoracic and lumbar in 22%. Thirteen percent had a single metastases only, 64% had multiple skeletal metastases, and 23% had non-skeletal metastases also. Preoperatively 64% were non-walkers (Frankel A-C), 30% could walk with aids (Frankel D) and 8% had normal motor function (Frankel E). Posterior decompression and stabilization was applied in 212 patients, 47 had laminectomy only, and 23 had anterior decompressions and reconstruction. Complications were recorded at a level of 20%, and systemic complications were often associated with early death. The survival rate was 0.63 at 3 months, 0.47 at 6 months, 0.30 at 1 year, and 0.16 at 2 years. Twelve of 255 (5%) patients with motor deficits were worsened postoperatively, whereas 179 (70%) improved at least one Frankel grade. The ability to walk postoperatively was retained during follow-up in more than 80% of the patients. This study shows that important improvement of function can be gained by surgical treatment, but the complication rate was high and many patients died of their disease within the first months of surgery.

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