Thirty-day Postoperative Complications After Surgery For Metastatic Long Bone Disease Are Associated With Higher Mortality at 1 Year

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2020 Feb;478(2):306-318. doi: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000001036.


Background: The benefits of surgical treatment of a metastasis of the extremities may be offset by drawbacks such as potential postoperative complications. For this group of patients, the primary goal of surgery is to improve quality of life in a palliative setting. A better comprehension of factors associated with complications and the impact of postoperative complications on mortality may prevent negative outcomes and help surgeons in surgical decision-making.

Questions/purposes: (1) What is the risk of 30-day postoperative complications after surgical treatment of osseous metastatic disease of the extremities? (2) What predisposing factors are associated with a higher risk of 30-day complications? (3) Are minor and major 30-day complications associated with higher mortality at 1 year?

Methods: Between 1999 and 2016, 1090 patients with osseous metastatic disease of the long bones treated surgically at our institution were retrospectively included in the study. Surgery included intramedullary nailing (58%), endoprosthetic reconstruction (22%), plate-screw fixation (14%), dynamic hip screw fixation (2%), and combined approaches (4%). Surgery was performed if patients were deemed healthy enough to proceed to surgery and wished to undergo surgery. All data were retrieved by manually reviewing patients' records. The overall frequency of complications, which were defined using the Clavien-Dindo classification system, was calculated. We did not include Grade I complications as postoperative complications and complications were divided into minor (Grade II) and major (Grades III-V) complications. A multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with 30-day postoperative complications. A Cox regression analysis was used to assess the association between postoperative complications and overall survival.

Results: Overall, 31% of the patients (333 of 1090) had a postoperative complication within 30 days. The following factors were independently associated with 30-day postoperative complications: rapidly growing primary tumors classified according to the modified Katagiri classification (odds ratio 1.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.1-2.2; p = 0.011), multiple bone metastases (OR 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.3; p = 0.008), pathologic fracture (OR 1.5; 95% CI, 1.1-2.0; p = 0.010), lower-extremity location (OR 2.2; 95% CI, 1.6-3.2; p < 0.001), hypoalbuminemia (OR 1.7; 95% CI, 1.2-2.4; p = 0.002), hyponatremia (OR 1.5; 95% CI, 1.0-2.2; p = 0.044), and elevated white blood cell count (OR 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.4; p = 0.007). Minor and major postoperative complications within 30 days after surgery were both associated with greater 1-year mortality (hazard ratio 1.6; 95% CI, 1.3-1.8; p < 0.001 and HR 3.4; 95% CI, 2.8-4.2, respectively; p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Patients with metastatic disease in the long bones are vulnerable to postoperative adverse events. When selecting patients for surgery, surgeons should carefully assess a patient's cancer status, and several preoperative laboratory values should be part of the standard work-up before surgery. Furthermore, 30-day postoperative complications decrease survival within 1 year after surgery. Therefore, patients at a high risk of having postoperative complications are less likely to profit from surgery and should be considered for nonoperative treatment or be monitored closely after surgery.

Level of evidence: Level III, therapeutic study.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bone Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Neoplasms / mortality
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary
  • Bone Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthopedic Procedures / adverse effects
  • Orthopedic Procedures / instrumentation
  • Orthopedic Procedures / mortality*
  • Patient Selection
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome