Bone scintigraphy predicts the risk of spinal cord compression in hormone-refractory prostate cancer

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In prostate cancer, confirmation of metastatic involvement of the skeleton has traditionally been achieved by bone scintigraphy, although the widespread availability of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) measurements has tended to eliminate the need for this investigation. The potential of bone scintigraphy to predict skeletal-related events, particularly spinal cord compression, after the onset of hormone refractoriness has never been investigated. The aim of this study was to establish whether a new method of evaluating bone scintigraphy would offer a better predictive value for this complication of the metastatic process than is achieved with currently available grading methods. We studied 84 patients with hormone-refractory prostate cancer who had undergone bone scintigraphy at the time of hormone escape. Tumour grading and parameters of tumour load (PSA and alkaline phosphatase activity) were available in all patients. The incidence of spinal cord compression was documented and all patients were followed up until death. Bone scintigraphy was evaluated by the conventional Soloway grading and by an additional analysis determining total or partial involvement of individual vertebrae. In contrast to the Soloway method, the new method was able to predict spinal cord compression at various spinal levels. Our data suggest that there is still a place for bone scintigraphy in the management of hormone-refractory prostate cancer.

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