Development and Assessment of a Predictive Score for Vertebral Compression Fracture After Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy for Spinal Metastases

Roman O. Kowalchuk, Benjamin A. Johnson-Tesch, Joseph T. Marion, Trey C. Mullikin, William S. Harmsen, Peter S. Rose, Brittany L. Siontis, Dong Kun Kim, Brian A. Costello, Jonathan M. Morris, Robert W. Gao, Satomi Shiraishi, John J. Lucido, Terence T. Sio, Daniel M. Trifiletti, Kenneth R. Olivier, Dawn Owen, Bradley J. Stish, Mark R. Waddle, Nadia N. LaackSean S. Park, Paul D. Brown, Kenneth W. Merrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


IMPORTANCE Vertebral compression fracture (VCF) is a potential adverse effect following treatment with stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for spinal metastases. OBJECTIVE To develop and assess a risk stratification model for VCF after SBRT. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This retrospective cohort study conducted at a high-volume referral center included 331 patients who had undergone 464 spine SBRT treatments from December 2007 through October 2019. Data analysis was conducted from November 1, 2020, to August 17, 2021. Exclusions included proton therapy, prior surgical intervention, vertebroplasty, or missing data. EXPOSURES One and 3 fraction spine SBRT treatments were most commonly delivered. Single-fraction treatments generally involved prescribed doses of 16 to 24 Gy (median, 20 Gy; range, 16-30 Gy) to gross disease compared with multifraction treatment that delivered a median of 30 Gy (range, 21-50 Gy). MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES The VCF and radiography components of the spinal instability neoplastic score were determined by a radiologist. Recursive partitioning analysis was conducted using separate training (70%), internal validation (15%), and test (15%) sets. The log-rank test was the criterion for node splitting. RESULTS Of the 331 participants, 88 were women (27%), and the mean (IQR) age was 63 (59-72) years. With a median follow-up of 21 months (IQR, 11-39 months), we identified 84 VCFs (18%), including 65 (77%) de novo and 19 (23%) progressive fractures. There was a median of 9 months (IQR, 3-21 months) to developing a VCF. From 15 candidate variables, 6 were identified using the backward selection method, feature importance testing, and a correlation heatmap. Four were selected via recursive partitioning analysis: epidural tumor extension, lumbar location, gross tumor volume of more than 10 cc, and a spinal instability neoplastic score of more than 6. One point was assigned to each variable, and the resulting multivariable Cox model had a concordance of 0.760. The hazard ratio per 1-point increase for VCF was 1.93 (95% CI, 1.62-2.30; P <.001). The cumulative incidence of VCF at 2 years (with death as a competing risk) was 6.7% (95% CI, 4.2%-10.7%) for low-risk (score, 0-1; 273 [58.3%]), 17.0% (95% CI, 10.8%-26.7%) for intermediate-risk (score, 2; 99 [21.3%]), and 35.4% (95% CI, 26.7%-46.9%) for high-risk cases (score, 3-4; 92 [19.8%]) (P <.001). Similar results were observed for freedom from VCF using stratification. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE The results of this cohort study identify a subgroup of patients with high risk for VCF following treatment with SBRT who may potentially benefit from undergoing prophylactic spinal stabilization or vertebroplasty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-419
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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