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Comparison of free vascularized fibular flaps and allograft fibular strut grafts to supplement spinopelvic reconstruction for sacral malignancies

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Orthopaedic and reconstructive surgeons are faced with large defects after the resection of malignant tumours of the sacrum. Spinopelvic reconstruction is advocated for resections above the level of the S1 neural foramina or involving the sacroiliac joint. Fixation may be augmented with either free vascularized fibular flaps (FVFs) or allograft fibular struts (AFSs) in a cathedral style. However, there are no studies comparing these reconstructive techniques.


We reviewed 44 patients (23 female, 21 male) with a mean age of 40 years (SD 17), who underwent en bloc sacrectomy for a malignant tumour of the sacrum with a reconstruction using a total (n = 20), subtotal (n = 2), or hemicathedral (n = 25) technique. The reconstructions were supplemented with a FVF in 25 patients (57%) and an AFS in 19 patients (43%). The mean length of the strut graft was 13 cm (SD 4). The mean follow-up was seven years (SD 5).


There was no difference in the mean age, sex, length of graft, size of the tumour, or the proportion of patients with a history of treatment with radiotherapy in the two groups. Reconstruction using an AFS was associated with nonunion (odds ratio 7.464 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.77 to 31.36); p = 0.007) and a significantly longer mean time to union (12 months (SD 3) vs eight (SD 3); p = 0.001) compared with a reconstruction using a FVF. Revision for a pseudoarthrosis was more likely to occur in the AFS group compared with the FVF group (hazard ratio 3.84 (95% CI 0.74 to 19.80); p = 0.109); however, this was not significant. Following the procedure, 32 patients (78%) were mobile with a mean Musculoskeletal Tumor Society Score 93 of 52% (SD 24%). There was a significantly higher mean score in patients reconstructed with a FVF compared with an AFS (62% vs 42%; p = 0.003).


Supplementation of spinopelvic reconstruction with a FVF was associated with a shorter time to union and a trend towards a reduced risk of hardware failure secondary to nonunion compared with reconstruction using an AFS. Spinopelvic fixation supplemented with a FVF is our preferred technique for reconstruction following resection of a sacral tumour.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(8):1414–1420.

Correspondence should be sent to Matthew T. Houdek. E-mail:

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