Diagnosis and management of metastatic spine disease. A review

J Neurosurg Spine. 2010 Jul;13(1):94-108. doi: 10.3171/2010.3.SPINE09202.


With continued growth of the elderly population and improvements in cancer therapies, the number of patients with symptomatic spinal metastases is likely to increase, and this is a condition that commonly leads to debilitating neurological dysfunction and pain. Advancements in surgical techniques of resection and spinal reconstruction, improvements in clinical outcomes following various treatment modalities, generally increased overall survival in patients with metastatic spine disease, and a recent randomized trial by Patchell and colleagues demonstrating the superiority of a combined surgical/radiotherapeutic approach over a radiotherapy-only strategy have led many to suggest increasingly aggressive interventions for patients with such lesions. Optimal management of spinal metastases encompasses numerous medical specialties, including neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, medical and radiation oncology, radiology, and rehabilitation medicine. In this review, the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and management of spinal metastatic disease are discussed. Ultimately, the goal of treatment in patients with spinal metastases remains palliative, and clinical judgment is required to select the appropriate patients for surgical intervention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pain Measurement
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Patient Selection
  • Spinal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Spinal Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • United States / epidemiology