General Editor: Luiz Vialle

Authors: Ilya Laufer, JJ Verlaan (on behalf of AOSpine Knowledge Forum Tumor)

Spine tumors Thoracolumbar, unstable, low ESCC

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1 Introduction top

Preoperative planning

Based on CT and MRI imaging, a plan should be prepared to determine:

  • The size and optimal location of implants used
  • Whether spinal cord decompression is necessary and if so, the amount of tissue to remove in order to achieve sufficient spinal cord decompression

Every case will be unique, and we will here illustrate just one example.

Thoracic and lumbar fractures: Posterior short segment fixation with pedicle screws enlarge

Length of construct and cement augmentation

In patients requiring posterior lateral decompression, not requiring anterior column reconstruction, bilateral posterior pedicle screw fixation fixation with minimum fixation of at least one level above and below the involved segment should be used.

Short segment constructs lead to increased stress on the posterior implants increasing the risk of implant failure (screw pullout/fracture). The risk of implant failure may be decreased by cement augmentation of fenestrated screws and through reconstitution of the anterior column using cement augmentation of the pathological fracture.

Fixation of multiple spinal segments does not affect functionality in the thoracic spine due to the presence of rigid rib cage. Adequate screw purchase should be aimed for during initial surgery as revision surgeries are too demanding for these patients.


Embolization procedures are recommended to reduce operative blood loss in hyper vascular tumors, especially for larger resections.

Neurological evaluation

The preoperative neurological assessment must be carried out as described in the Neurological Evaluation.

2 Patient positioning and surgical approach top


For this procedure the patient is placed in the  prone position and the posterior midline approach is used.

3 Stabilization top

Thoracic and lumbar fractures: Posterior long segment fixation enlarge

Pedicle screw insertion

Pedicle screws are inserted one or two levels above and below the tumor on both sides.

In cases of multilevel tumors or poor bone quality this construct can be extended.

In tumor patients achieving optimal screw purchase is even more important than in trauma patients to minimize risk of pullouts and reduce the number of levels involved.

Optimal pedicle screw purchase will, in order of importance, be achieved by:

  1. Selecting the largest possible screw diameter
  2. Selecting the longest possible screw
  3. Positioning of the screw under the cranial endplate
  4. Cement augmentation of the screw.

Thoracic and lumbar fractures: Posterior long segment fixation enlarge

Rod contouring

Rod contouring should mainly follow the curvature of the spine. Reducing preexisting deformities is typically not necessary and may lead to screw pull-out.

Thoracic and lumbar fractures: Posterior long segment fixation enlarge

Rod insertion and fixation

The rod is inserted into the screw heads and the screw heads are tightened with the inner nuts.

If posterior decompression is performed only one rod is inserted to facilitate access to the spinal canal.

4 Fusion top


Life expectancy and performance status should be used to determine whether bone grafting is indicated.

For patients with good prognosis and a long life-expectancy, posterior fusion may optionally be performed using allograft and/or local autograft.


For nonfusion surgeries, the facet joint capsule is preserved during the entire procedure.

Thoracic and lumbar fractures: Posterior long segment fixation enlarge


If the surgeon plans for a fusion, the facet capsule is excised, and the joint cartilage surfaces and posterior cortex are denuded/curetted.

Thoracic and lumbar fractures: Posterior long segment fixation enlarge

Pieces of bone graft (autograft, allograft) are inserted into the decorticated facet joint for fusion.

5 Intraoperative imaging top

Thoracic and lumbar fractures: Posterior long segment fixation enlarge

Prior to wound closure, intraoperative imaging is performed to check the adequacy of reduction, position, and length of screws and the overall coronal and sagittal spinal alignment.


Lateral view of the above.

V1.0 2019.01.06