Preoperative SPECT imaging as a tool for surgical planning in patients with axial neck and back pain

G. Damian Brusko, Roberto J. Perez-Roman, Harold Tapamo, S. Shelby Burks, Aldo N. Serafini, Michael Y. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE Hybrid SPECT with CT imaging has been used to help elucidate pain generators in patients with axial neck and back pain, identifying potential sites for treatment. Few studies have examined its role in spine surgery and most literature focuses on its use postoperatively. The authors describe the largest series to date of patients with symptomatic spondylosis who underwent preoperative SPECT imaging for surgical planning. METHODS A retrospective medical and imaging record review was conducted to identify patients who underwent SPECT or SPECT/CT studies between January 2014 and May 2018. Patients who underwent spine surgical intervention for spondylosis with primary symptoms of axial neck or back pain and who had evidence of hypermetabolic foci on spinal SPECT imaging were included. Only those patients who subsequently underwent surgery on a spinal level associated with increased radiotracer uptake were included in the analysis. Patient baseline and demographic information, and data pertaining to SPECT imaging, surgical planning, and postoperative care were collected and analyzed. RESULTS A total of 23 patients with an average age at surgery of 60.0 ± 11.0 years were included. Fifteen patients (65.2%) were male. A total of 53 spinal levels were treated, with an average of 2.30 levels treated per patient. All patients underwent fusion surgery, either lumbar (n = 14), with interbody fusion most commonly used (64.2%); or cervical (n = 9), with anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (66.6%) being the most common. The average length of hospital stay was 3.45 ± 2.32 days. One patient developed a wound infection postoperatively, requiring readmission. At the 3-month follow-up, 18 patients (78.3%) reported clinical improvement in pain. Eleven patients (47.8%) reported complete symptom resolution at the 6-month follow-up. At 1 year postoperatively, 19 patients (82.6%) reported significant relief of their symptoms following surgery. CONCLUSIONS This is the largest series to date describing patients with axial neck and back pain who underwent preoperative SPECT imaging and subsequent surgical intervention on the affected spinal levels. The results demonstrate that SPECT imaging may be a useful adjunct to guide surgical planning, resulting in substantial clinical improvement following surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9648
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Axial pain
  • Imaging
  • Preoperative planning
  • Single-photon emission computed tomography
  • Spine surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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