Diagnostic use of intramedullary reaming biopsy in metastatic long bone disease

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Bone is the third most common site of metastasis. A histological diagnosis is important in guiding therapy and prognosis. In up to 15% of cases of metastatic disease, the primary tumour remains unknown. This emphasises the importance of adequate, reliable and accurate sampling when performing any type of biopsy. Reaming biopsy is commonly performed during intramedullary nailing of metastatic long-bone disease but there is little published evidence on the diagnostic use and reliability of this technique.


We reviewed 49 cases of confirmed metastatic bone disease to determine adequacy for analysis, diagnostic accuracy and factors affecting reliability.


Adequate tissue for histopathological analysis was obtained in 96% of cases but metastasis was confirmed in only 51% of cases. The presence of a pathological fracture had no effect on accuracy of the results but metastasis was more likely to be missed in the presence of tissue crushing and or necrosis (P = 0.015).


This study determines the use and accuracy of bone reaming biopsy in metastatic disease and, to the best of our knowledge, is the only study determining the effect of additional factors such as the presence of a pathological fracture and tissue necrosis or crushing on the diagnostic accuracy of this technique.


In spite of adequate tissue sampling, the diagnostic accuracy and, hence, reliability of intramedullary reaming biopsy in metastatic bone disease is less than optimal. A reaming histopathology report suggesting no evident metastasis should always be taken in clinical context.

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