Metastatic fractures of long limb bones

Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2017 Feb;103(1S):S41-S51. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2016.11.001. Epub 2017 Jan 11.


The diagnosis of pathological fracture should be considered routinely in patients with long limb-bone fractures. Investigations must be performed to establish the diagnosis of pathological fracture then to determine that the bone lesion is a metastasis. In over 85% of cases, the clinical evaluation combined with a detailed analysis of the radiographs is sufficient to determine that the fracture occurred at a tumour site. Aetiological investigations establish that the tumour is a metastasis. In some patients, the diagnosis of metastatic cancer antedates the fracture. When this is not the case, a diagnostic strategy should be devised, with first- to third-line investigations. When these fail to provide the definitive diagnosis, a surgical biopsy should be performed. The primaries most often responsible for metastatic bone disease are those of the breast, lung, kidney, prostate, and thyroid gland. However, the survival gains provided by newly introduced treatments translate into an increased frequency of bone metastases from other cancers. The optimal treatment of a pathological fracture is preventive. The Mirels score is helpful for determining whether preventive measures are indicated. When selecting a treatment for a pathological fracture, important considerations are the type of tumour, availability of effective adjuvant treatments, and general health of the patient. Metastatic fractures are best managed by a multidisciplinary team. The emergent treatment should start with optimisation of the patient's general condition, in particular by identifying and treating metabolic disorders (e.g., hypercalcaemia) and haematological disorders. Treatment decisions also depend on the above-listed general factors, location of the tumour, and size of the bony defect. Prosthetic reconstruction is preferred for epiphyseal fractures and internal fixation for diaphyseal fractures.

Keywords: Bone tumour; Massive prosthesis; Metastasis; Multidisciplinary management; Pathological fracture.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Neoplasms / complications
  • Bone Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Femoral Fractures / etiology
  • Femoral Fractures / surgery
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods*
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology*
  • Fractures, Bone / surgery
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / etiology
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / surgery
  • Humans