The objective of this study was to present the results of a consecutive series of 120 cases treated with spinal laser interstitial thermal therapy (sLITT) to manage epidural spinal cord compression (ESCC) from metastatic tumors.
The electronic records of patients treated from 2013 to 2019 were analyzed retrospectively. Data collected included demographic, pathology, clinical, operative, and imaging findings; degree of epidural compression before and after sLITT; length of hospital stay; complications; and duration before subsequent oncological treatment. Independent-sample t-tests were used to compare means between pre- and post-sLITT treatments. Survival was estimated by the Kaplan-Meier method. Multivariate logistic regression was used to analyze predictive factors for local recurrence and neurological complications.
There were 110 patients who underwent 120 sLITT procedures. Spinal levels treated included 5 cervical, 8 lumbar, and 107 thoracic. The pre-sLITT Frankel grades were E (91.7%), D (6.7%), and C (1.7%). The preoperative ESCC grade was 1c or higher in 92% of cases. Metastases were most common from renal cell carcinoma (39%), followed by non-small cell lung carcinoma (10.8%) and other tumors (35%). The most common location of ESCC was in the vertebral body (88.3%), followed by paraspinal/foraminal (7.5%) and posterior elements (4.2%). Adjuvant radiotherapy (spinal stereotactic radiosurgery or conventional external beam radiation therapy) was performed in 87 cases (72.5%), whereas 33 procedures (27.5%) were performed as salvage after radiotherapy options were exhausted. sLITT was performed without need for spinal stabilization in 87 cases (72.5%). Post-sLITT Frankel grades were E (85%), D (10%), C (4.2%), and B (0.8%); treatment was associated with a median decrease of 2 ESCC grades. The local control rate at 1 year was 81.7%. Local control failure occurred in 25 cases (20.8%). The median progression-free survival was not reached, and overall survival was 14 months. Tumor location in the paraspinal region and salvage treatment were independent predictors of local recurrence, with hazard ratios of 6.3 and 3.3, respectively (p = 0.01). Complications were observed in 22 cases (18.3%). sLITT procedures performed in the lumbar and cervical spine had hazard ratios for neurological complications of 15.4 and 17.1 (p < 0.01), respectively, relative to the thoracic spine.
sLITT is safe and provides effective local control for high-grade ESCC from vertebral metastases in the thoracic spine, particularly when combined with adjuvant radiotherapy. The authors propose considering sLITT as an alternative to open surgery in selected patients with spinal metastases.