Regis W. Haid, Jr., MD, Spine Surgeon
A spinal tumor is a cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign) growth that develops within or near your spinal cord or within the bones of your spine. Although back pain is the most common indication of a spinal tumor, most back pain is associated with stress, strain and aging.
In most areas of the body, noncancerous tumors aren't particularly concerning. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case with spinal tumors. The tumor or growth can impinge on nerves, thus leading to pain, neurological problems or even paralysis.
What kind of surgery is performed for Spinal Tumors?
The type and location of the tumor affects the type of surgery.
For example, where the tumor is within the spinal canal, either near to or actually in the spinal cord, a posterior approach is generally recommended. This may involve removal of the back part of the spine (a laminectomy). We then biopsy and resection of as much of the tumor as is safely possible. If the tumor involves the bones in the back part of the spine, a fusion may be necessary. This typically involves using your own or banked bone, as well as spinal instrumentation to stabilize your spine while the fusion takes place.
If the tumor involves the front part of your spine, an approach going through the front part of your neck is performed. In these cases, resection of bone is often required, necessitating the additional step of fusion followed by spinal fixation.
After the surgery, additional treatments may be necessary, including radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Depending on the type of surgery and what kind of internal fixation was used to stabilize the spine, it may be necessary to immobilize your neck for some period of time in a neck collar or some other kind of orthosis.