Role of stereotactic body radiotherapy in spinal metastasis and subsequent fracture risk: identifying and treating the at-risk patient

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SUMMARY The treatment of spinal metastasis has considerably improved with the advent of stereotactic body radiotherapy. Technological advances have enabled the precise delivery of high-dose radiation that may supplant surgery and standard fractionation postoperative radiation as a treatment for spinal metastasis without cord compression. Unfortunately, the higher biologically equivalent doses conferred by stereotactic body radiotherapy can also result in radiation toxicity, notably myelitis and vertebral body fracture. These are toxicities that the radiation oncologist must be able to anticipate, mitigate and manage. Although myelitis can be prevented largely by instituting dose constraints, it is less clear what the fracture risk of a structurally compromised vertebra is, and what should be done in terms of stabilization and dosimetry to mitigate this risk. This review answers these questions by defining the appropriate patient for stereotactic body radiotherapy, and what dose, fractionation and spinal stabilization should be used for potentially unstable spines.

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