Evaluating frailty, mortality, and complications associated with metastatic spine tumor surgery using machine learning–derived body composition analysis

Elie Massaad, Christopher P. Bridge, Ali Kiapour, Mitchell S. Fourman, Julia B. Duvall, Ian D. Connolly, Muhamed Hadzipasic, Ganesh M. Shankar, Katherine P. Andriole, Michael Rosenthal, Andrew J. Schoenfeld, Mark H. Bilsky, John H. Shin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE Cancer patients with spinal metastases may undergo surgery without clear assessments of prognosis, thereby impacting the optimal palliative strategy. Because the morbidity of surgery may adversely impact recovery and initiation of adjuvant therapies, evaluation of risk factors associated with mortality risk and complications is critical. Evaluation of body composition of cancer patients as a surrogate for frailty is an emerging area of study for improving preoperative risk stratification. METHODS To examine the associations of muscle characteristics and adiposity with postoperative complications, length of stay, and mortality in patients with spinal metastases, the authors designed an observational study of 484 cancer patients who received surgical treatment for spinal metastases between 2010 and 2019. Sarcopenia, muscle radiodensity, visceral adiposity, and subcutaneous adiposity were assessed on routinely available 3-month preoperative CT images by using a validated deep learning methodology. The authors used k-means clustering analysis to identify patients with similar body composition characteristics. Regression models were used to examine the associations of sarcopenia, frailty, and clusters with the outcomes of interest. RESULTS Of 484 patients enrolled, 303 had evaluable CT data on muscle and adiposity (mean age 62.00 ± 11.91 years; 57.8% male). The authors identified 2 clusters with significantly different body composition characteristics and mortality risks after spine metastases surgery. Patients in cluster 2 (high-risk cluster) had lower muscle mass index (mean ± SD 41.16 ± 7.99 vs 50.13 ± 10.45 cm2/m2), lower subcutaneous fat area (147.62 ± 57.80 vs 289.83 ± 109.31 cm2), lower visceral fat area (82.28 ± 48.96 vs 239.26 ± 98.40 cm2), higher muscle radiodensity (35.67 ± 9.94 vs 31.13 ± 9.07 Hounsfield units [HU]), and significantly higher risk of 1-year mortality (adjusted HR 1.45, 95% CI 1.05–2.01, p = 0.02) than individuals in cluster 1 (low-risk cluster). Decreased muscle mass, muscle radiodensity, and adiposity were not associated with a higher rate of complications after surgery. Prolonged length of stay (> 7 days) was associated with low muscle radiodensity (mean 30.87 vs 35.23 HU, 95% CI 1.98–6.73, p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS Body composition analysis shows promise for better risk stratification of patients with spinal metastases under consideration for surgery. Those with lower muscle mass and subcutaneous and visceral adiposity are at greater risk for inferior outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-273
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • body composition
  • frailty
  • machine learning
  • oncology
  • predictive analytics
  • sarcopenia
  • spine fusion
  • spine metastasis
  • spine surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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