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This article is the author’s final published version in BMC Cancer, Volume 23, Issue 1, April 2023, Article number 337.

The published version is available at Copyright © Carducci et al.


Background: The utilization of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is increasing for primary and secondary lung neoplasms. Despite encouraging results, SBRT is associated with an increased risk of osteoradionecrosis-induced rib fracture. We aimed to (1) evaluate potential clinical, demographic, and procedure-related risk factors for rib fractures and (2) describe the radiographic features of post-SBRT rib fractures.

Methods: We retrospectively identified 106 patients who received SBRT between 2015 and 2018 for a primary or metastatic lung tumor with at least 12 months of follow up. Exclusion criteria were incomplete records, previous ipsilateral thoracic radiation, or relevant prior trauma. Computed tomography (CT) images were reviewed to identify and characterize rib fractures. Multivariate logistic regression modeling was employed to determine clinical, demographic, and procedural risk factors (e.g., age, sex, race, medical comorbidities, dosage, and tumor location).

Results: A total of 106 patients with 111 treated tumors met the inclusion criteria, 35 (32%) of whom developed at least one fractured rib (60 total fractured ribs). The highest number of fractured ribs per patient was five. Multivariate regression identified posterolateral tumor location as the only independent risk factor for rib fracture. On CT, fractures showed discontinuity between healing edges in 77% of affected patients.

Conclusions: Nearly one third of patients receiving SBRT for lung tumors experienced rib fractures, 34% of whom experienced pain. Many patients developed multiple fractures. Post-SBRT fractures demonstrated a unique discontinuity between the healing edges of the rib, a distinct feature of post-SBRT rib fractures. The only independent predictor of rib fracture was tumor location along the posterolateral chest wall. Given its increasing frequency of use, describing the risk profile of SBRT is vital to ensure patient safety and adequately inform patient expectations.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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