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Acad Radiol. 2008 Jul;15(7):901-11. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2008.01.020.

Effectiveness of CT-guided percutaneous biopsies of the spine: an analysis of 202 examinations.

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Institute of Diagnostic Radiology, Interventional Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Berufsgenossenschaftliches Universitätsklinikum Bergmannsheil GmbH, Ruhr-University of Bochum, Buerkle-de-la-Camp Platz 1, D-44789 Bochum, Germany.



The study goal was to retrospectively evaluate the effectiveness of computed tomography (CT)-guided spinal biopsies.


Two hundred two CT-guided vertebral biopsies performed between May 1999 and June 2004 in 187 patients were retrospectively analyzed. Patient characteristics (age, sex, antibiotic therapy), technical parameters (depth and number of biopsies, needle approach), lesion features (spinal level, osteolysis, fluid collections, soft tissue tumor), and complications were documented. Furthermore, histopathological and microbiological diagnoses were considered.


There were two focal hematomas in our study group (complication rate: 1%). Histopathological diagnosis was established in 74% of examinations with spondylitis (41% of cases) being most common. In spinal tumors (27% of cases), malignant lesions were found in 52 of 54 examinations (96%). Osteolysis was diagnosed in 98% of patients with spondylitis and in 87% of patients with tumors (P < .01). Spinal tumors were most commonly seen in the sacrum (53%, P < .001), whereas spondylitis typically occurred in the lumbar spine (55%, P = .001). Neither patient age nor sex, needle approach, needle depth, or vertebral abnormalities showed a significant impact on diagnostic accuracy. Microbiological tests were performed in 98 patients (49%); 62 of 98 patients (65%) received antibiotic therapy. In 12 of 62 patients (19%) with antibiotic therapy and in 9 of 36 patients (25%) without antibiotic treatment, microbiological tests were positive (P = .153). Staphylococcus aureus was found in 9 of 21 examinations (43%).


CT-guided vertebral biopsy is a safe and effective procedure to establish final diagnosis in spinal lesions of unclear origin. Patient characteristics, lesions features, and technical considerations did not influence sample quality. In spondylitis, which was commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus, microbiological yield was low regardless of antibiotic therapy.

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