Osteolytic metastases and spinal myeloma lesions are difficult to treat because they denote disseminated malignant disease. The pain-relieving and other effects of radiation therapy are delayed. We evaluated short- and medium-term outcomes of vertebroplasty in this indication, in patients with severe or excruciatingly severe pain (McGill-Melsack score 4 or 5) unresponsive to narcotics.
Patients and methods: forty vertebras were treated in 37 patients including 29 with bone metastases and eight with multiple myeloma. Mean age was 58 years (range 36-83). The spinal segment involved was the cervical spine in five cases, the thoracic spine in 12 and the lumbar spine in 23. Vertebroplasty was done under fluoroscopy guidance after premedication and local anesthesia.
Results: thirty-six patients (97.3%) reported a decrease in their pain 48 hours after the procedure; five of these patients (13.5%) were completely free of pain, 20 (55%) were significantly improved and 11 (30%) were moderately improved. One patient failed to respond. The clinical results were not correlated to the extent of vertebral body filling. Beneficial effects were increased or unchanged in 100% of cases after one month, 88.9% after three months and 75% after six months. Leakage of the cement outside the vertebral body occurred in 29 cases (72.5%), usually into the paraspinal soft tissues (n = 21,52.5%). Leakage was usually clinically silent and only two patients developed severe nerve root pain due to leakage into a neural foramen, with in both instances a favorable outcome after surgery.
Conclusion: Vertebro- plasty is simple and effective for the treatment of osteolytic metastases and multiple myeloma lesions, but should be performed only in centers with neurosurgical and/or orthopedic surgery units because of the possibility of severe complications.