Management of metastatic sacral tumours

Eur Spine J. 2012 Oct;21(10):1984-93. doi: 10.1007/s00586-012-2394-9. Epub 2012 Jun 23.


Purpose: Metastatic involvement of the sacrum is rare and there is a paucity of studies which deal with the management of these tumours since most papers refer to primary sacral tumours. This study aims to review the available literature in the management of sacral metastatic tumours as reflected in the current literature.

Methods: A systematic review of the English language literature was undertaken for relevant articles published over the last 11 years (1999-2010). The PubMed electronic database and reference lists of key articles were searched to identify relevant studies using the terms "sacral metastases" and "metastatic sacral tumours". Studies involving primary sacral tumours only were excluded. For the assessment of the level of evidence quality, the CEBM (Oxford Centre of Evidence Based Medicine) grading system was utilised.

Results: The initial search revealed 479 articles. After screening, 16 articles identified meeting our inclusion criteria [1 prospective cohort study on radiosurgery (level II); 2 case series (level III); 4 retrospective case series (level IV) and 9 case reports (level IV)].

Conclusion: The mainstay of management for sacral metastatic tumours is palliation. Preoperative angioembolisation is shown to be of value in cases of highly vascularised tumours. Radiotherapy is used as the primary treatment in cases of inoperable tumours without spinal instability where pain relief and neurological improvement are attainable. Minimal invasive procedures such as sacroplasties were shown to offer immediate pain relief and improvement with ambulation, whereas more aggressive surgery, involving decompression and sacral reconstruction, is utilised mainly for the treatment of local advanced tumours which compromise the stability of the spine or threaten neurological status. Adjuvant cryosurgery and radiosurgery have demonstrated promising results (if no neurological compromise or instability) with local disease control.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / therapy
  • Sacrum / pathology*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / therapy*