The importance of timely treatment for quality of life and survival in patients with symptomatic spinal metastases

Eur Spine J. 2020 Dec;29(12):3170-3178. doi: 10.1007/s00586-020-06599-x. Epub 2020 Sep 18.


Purpose: A major challenge in metastatic spinal disease is timely identification of patients. Left untreated, spinal metastases may lead to gross mechanical instability and/or neurological deficits, often requiring extensive invasive surgical treatment. The aim of this cohort study was to assess the correlation between delayed treatment of patients with spinal metastases and functional performance, quality of life and survival.

Methods: All patients surgically treated for metastatic spinal disease at a tertiary care facility were included for analysis. Patients who underwent elective surgery were considered as timely treated, whereas patients requiring emergency surgery were considered to be treated in a delayed fashion. EQ-5D scores, KPS scores and mortality rates were compared between the two groups.

Results: A total of 317 patients (215 timely treated, 102 delayed) had survivorship data available and 202 patients (147 timely treated, 55 delayed) had clinical data available. Multivariate analyses showed delayed treatment was associated with lower EQ-5D and KPS scores and higher mortality rates, independent of confounders such as baseline EQ-5D/KPS scores, neurological status, tumor prognosis and patient age.

Conclusions: The results from the present study show delayed treatment of patients with symptomatic spinal metastases has both direct and indirect adverse consequences for functional performance status, quality of life and survival. Optimization of referral pattern may accelerate the time to surgical treatment, potentially leading to better quality of life and survival.

Keywords: Delay; Quality of life; Spinal metastases; Survival.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Elective Surgical Procedures
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life*
  • Spinal Neoplasms* / surgery