Background and purpose: Radiotherapy (RT) remains the cornerstone of management of spine metastases (SM), even though surgery is a well-established treatment for selected patients. We compared the use of RT and surgery in a population-based cohort of patients with SM, investigated pre-treatment factors that were associated with use of these treatment modalities, and examined survival.
Patients and methods: 903 patients in the south-eastern Norway who were admitted for RT or surgery for SM for the first time during an 18-month period in 2007-2008 were identified and their medical records were reviewed.
Results: The primary treatment was surgery in 58 patients and RT in 845 patients, including 704 multiple-fraction (MF) and 141 single-fraction (SF) RT schedules. 11 of 607 patients without motor impairment (2%) and 47 of 274 patients with motor impairment (17%) underwent primary operations. 11 of 58 operated patients and 244 of 845 irradiated patients died within 2 months after the start of treatment. 26% of those who received multiple-fraction RT or surgery died within 2 months.
Interpretation: Motor impairment was the main indication for surgery. Better identification of patients with short survival is needed to avoid time-consuming treatment (major surgery and long-term RT).