When a growth of cells forms on the spinal cord, the result is a tumor, which itself is of concern since there’s a possibility that it may be cancerous. Even if it’s benign, or non-cancerous, attention may be required if there’s pressure on adjacent nerves. Surgical options range from tumor removal to spine stabilization.
Weighing Surgery Options
Removal of a spinal tumor isn’t always practical or possible. If the tumor is located in an area that’s hard to reach, for instance, observation is often recommended to monitor the size of the tumor. The same is true of tumors that aren’t causing any pain for the patient.
When Surgery Is Recommended
The size, location, and type of tumor determines whether or not surgery may be necessary. As with other types of spine-originating pain, there is a natural inclination to avoid surgery when possible, although it does become likely when a patient experiences:
- Spinal instability
- Increased infection risk
- Persistent and severe pain
- Bowel or bladder dysfunction
Available Surgical Procedures
Surgical options are based on the nature of the tumor. If surgery is deemed necessary, the duration of the operation, complication risks, and recovery requirements vary greatly. Available procedures
- Decompression: Involving “decompression,” or the relief of nerve pressure, part or all of the tumor is removed with decompression spine surgery.
- Embolization: The goal of this procedure is to entirely cut off or slow the blood supply to the tumor.
- Kyphoplasty: Performed when a tumor causes a spine fracture, this procedure involves the injection of bone cement into the fracture after the insertion of a balloon to create a cavity to stabilize the spine.
- Vertebroplasty: Similar to a kyphoplasty, this procedure is performed without a balloon; a variation of the procedure uses radio wave energy.
Despite the name, radiosurgery is a procedure involving high-dose radiation, not surgery. The tumor disappears over time.
Surgery tends to be more successful for slow-growing tumors. Patients may receive radiation therapy following surgery to address the tumor itself to destroy any undetected cancer cells. Research suggests this treatment combination is more effective for patients than radiation application alone.
For more information, reach out to The Spine Institute Center in Los Angeles. Our experienced team of diagnosticians and physicians can help patients better understand their condition and options for reclaiming a pain-free lifestyle.