Background: The current operative standard of care for disseminated malignant bone disease suggests stabilizing the entire bone to avoid the need for subsequent operative intervention but risks of doing so include complications related to embolic phenomena.
Questions/purposes: We questioned whether progression and reoperation occur with enough frequency to justify additional risks of longer intramedullary devices.
Methods: A retrospective chart review was done for 96 patients with metastases, myeloma, or lymphoma who had undergone stabilization or arthroplasty of impending or actual femoral or humeral pathologic fractures using an approach favoring intramedullary fixation devices and long-stem arthroplasty. Incidence of progressive bone disease, reoperation, and complications associated with fixation and arthroplasty devices in instrumented femurs or humeri was determined.
Results: At minimum 0 months followup (mean, 11 months; range, 0-72 months), 80% of patients had died. Eleven of 96 patients (12%) experienced local bony disease progression; eight had local progression at the original site, two had progression at originally recognized discretely separate lesions, and one had a new lesion develop in the bone that originally was surgically treated. Six subjects (6.3%) required repeat operative intervention for symptomatic failure. Twelve (12.5%) patients experienced physiologic nonfatal complications potentially attributable to embolic phenomena from long intramedullary implants.
Conclusions: Because most patients in this series were treated with the intent to protect the bone with long intramedullary implants when possible, the reoperation rate may be lower than if the entire bone had not been protected. However, the low incidence of disease progression apart from originally identified lesions (one of 96) was considerably lower than the physiologic complication rate (12 of 96) potentially attributable to long intramedullary implants.
Level of evidence: Level IV, therapeutic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.