Modified En Bloc Spondylectomy for Tumors of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine: Surgical Technique and Outcomes

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2017 Sep 6;99(17):1476-1484. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.17.00141.


Background: Total en bloc spondylectomy (TES) for the treatment of spinal tumors decreases local recurrence and improves survival compared with intralesional resection. TES approaches vary in both the number of stages to complete the procedure and instruments with which osteotomies are performed.

Methods: We describe a 2-stage technique that employs the use of threadwire saws. We performed a retrospective review of cases of primary tumors and solitary metastases involving the thoracic or lumbar spine treated with use of our modified technique at our institution between 2010 and 2016, identifying eligible patients by searching for specific phrases in operative reports found in our oncologic database. Clinical notes, operative notes, imaging reports, and pathology reports were reviewed for all patients.

Results: Thirty-three patients underwent our modified technique, in which we pass a threadwire saw between the vertebral body and the thecal sac. The most common tumor type was chordoma (64%), and tumors were most commonly located in the lumbar spine (61%). There were no intraoperative injuries to the spinal cord or great vessels. One patient experienced a dural tear secondary to the passage of a saw. Seventeen (52%) of the patients had perioperative complications, with 1 death. Seven (22%) of the patients had complications occurring within 90 days after discharge, and 8 (25%) had complications occurring >90 days after discharge. Instrumentation failure was observed in 8 cases (25%). Negative margins were obtained in 94% of the cases. Local recurrence was observed in 2 cases (6%). The majority of patients had normal motor function at the time of the most recent follow-up.

Conclusions: Our modified en bloc spondylectomy represents an effective technique for the resection of spinal tumors in selected patients, allowing for visualization of vessels anterior to the spine and the avoidance of spinal cord injury.

Level of evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chondrosarcoma / surgery*
  • Chordoma / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteotomy / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome