Frequency of Complicated Symptomatic Bone Metastasis Over a Breadth of Operational Definitions

Sara R. Alcorn, Christen R. Elledge, Jean L. Wright, Thomas J. Smith, Todd R. McNutt, Jacob Fiksel, Scott L. Zeger, Theodore L. DeWeese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: Numerous randomized trials have demonstrated noninferiority of single- versus multiple-fraction palliative radiation therapy (RT) in the management of uncomplicated bone metastases; yet there is neither a clear definition of what constitutes a complicated lesion, nor substantial data regarding the prevalence of such complicating features in clinical practice. Thus, we identify a range of evidence-based operational definitions of complicated symptomatic bone metastases and characterize the frequency of such complicating features at a high-volume, tertiary care center. Methods and Materials: A retrospective review of patients seen in consultation for symptomatic bone metastases between March 1, 2007, and July 31, 2013, at Johns Hopkins Hospital identified patient and disease characteristics. Descriptive statistics characterized the frequency of the following complicating features: prior RT, prior surgery, neuraxis compromise, pathologic fracture, and soft tissue component at the symptomatic site. A range of definitions for complicated bone metastases was evaluated based on combinations of these features. Uni- and multivariable logistic regressions evaluated the odds of complicated bone metastases as a function of site of primary cancer and of the symptomatic target lesion. Results: A total of 686 symptomatic bone metastases in 401 patients were evaluated. Percent of target sites complicated by prior RT was 4.4%, prior surgery was 8.9%, pathologic fracture was 20.6%, neuraxis compromise was 52.0% among spine and medial pelvis sites, and soft tissue component was 38.6%. More than 96 possible definitions of complicated bone metastases were identified. The presence of such complicated lesions ranged from 2.3% to 67.3%, depending on the operational definition used. Odds of a complicated lesion were significantly higher for spine sites and select nonbreast histologies. Conclusions: In this retrospective study, we found complicated symptomatic bone metastases may be present in up to two-thirds of patients. Literature review also demonstrates no clear standard definition of complicated bone metastases, potentially explaining underutilization of single-fraction palliative RT in this setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)800-810
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 15 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sources of support: This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (5KL2TR001077) to S.A.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Inc.


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