Spinal Tumor Surgery

Spinal Tumor Surgery

For patients with slow-growing primary intradural spinal tumors such as meningiomas and schwannomas, surgery is often curative. The surgery involves the removal of the bony roof of the spinal canal (lamina) to expose the dura which is the covering of the spinal cord and nerve roots. The dura is then opened and the tumor is removed very carefully with the aid of the operating microscope and advanced microsurgical techniques. In order to ensure the highest level of safety during your surgery, the function of the spinal cord and nerves is routinely monitored during surgery. These intraoperative nerve monitoring techniques help the surgeon avoid damaging nerves during surgery.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

If you have a metastatic spine tumor (a tumor in the spine that began elsewhere in your body), surgery could potentially help to stabilize your spine, reduce pain, prevent paralysis, and increase your mobility. These tumors can be approached via an anterior, lateral, posterolateral, or posterior approach. Sometimes following tumor removal, fixation of the spine using special instrumentation is required to redistribute stress on the bones and to keep them aligned. These palliative surgical techniques can provide local control of cancer while allowing the patient to return to other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. In some situations, spinal cord decompression is done to create enough space so that high-dose radiation can be given without putting the spinal cord at risk of significant injury.

Spinal angiography with tumor embolization is performed prior to surgery when dealing with tumors with an abnormally large number of blood vessels. In this procedure, the blood vessels are identified by injecting dye into the tumor and then the interventional radiologist injects a special substance into the blood vessels to stop the blood flow. This procedure significantly reduces the risk of bleeding during surgery and is a very powerful adjunct in select cases of highly vascular spinal tumors.

Commonly asked questions about MIS

Where do spinal tumors originate?

A spinal tumor can originate within the spinal column or spread to the spine from somewhere else. Primary tumors originate in the spine and are very rare. Primary tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Secondary tumors are malignant tumors that have spread (metastasized) from another part of the body, such as the lungs, breasts, or thyroid.

If I undergo radiation therapy, will I be radioactive?

Most patients who need radiation therapy undergo external radiation therapy which does not make you radioactive. This type of radiation therapy is often provided on an outpatient basis.

How can I tell if my back pain is a spinal tumor?

Some of the symptoms of a back or neck tumor are similar to other spinal disorders. Keep in mind that a spinal tumor is a rare condition, so don’t panic. Non-mechanical back or neck pain is the most common symptom. This type of pain is constant, is not activity-related, and is not relieved by lying down or resting. Other symptoms that may be associated with a tumor include sciatica, progressive numbness or weakness, fever, partial paralysis, or bowel and bladder dysfunction. Of course, bowel or bladder dysfunction requires immediate medical attention.

My doctor said to expect pain after radiation therapy. Why would that happen?

Many patients report increased pain or discomfort following radiation therapy, although the pain is temporary. Radiation therapy may cause tissue inflammation as treatment affects tumor cells.

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