Spinal Cord Tumor Surgery
Spinal cord tumors are relatively rare cell growths that affect the spinal cord or spinal meninges. They may originate from the spinal cord and grow there, displacing or infiltrating. However, cell growth can also originate from surrounding structures. These include the spinal cord membranes and blood vessels, showing proliferative growth.
Specialists in the Field of Spinal Cord Tumor Surgery
Information About the Field of Spinal Cord Tumor Surgery
What Is Spinal Cord Cancer?
For the vast majority, spinal cord tumors are benign tumors that grow slowly. Nevertheless, they can be a significant problem for patients when they reach a specific size and constrict important structures and pathways in the spinal cord. Neurological problems then arise, which can sometimes result in severe deficits.
Spinal cord tumors can be classified into different groups. First, there are intramedullary tumors, which arise from the spinal cord cells. These include the ependymomas, the most common intramedullary tumors in adults. Also intramedullary are the astrocytomas, which more often grow infiltratively and are more common in childhood.
On the other hand, extramedullary tumors do not grow in the spinal cord itself, but within the spinal canal, so they can press on the spinal cord from the outside. Tumors originating from the spinal cord membranes are called meningiomas . Rarely, some tumors arise from the nerve cell sheaths, the Schwann cells. They are called schwannomas and neurinomas, are usually connective tissue and grow slowly.
Cavernomas , on the other hand, are thin-walled vascular malformations that can reform and grow in size. They can bleed and cause hemorrhage into the spinal cord, leading to paraplegia in the worst cases.
In addition, it is important to exclude secondary tumors, which mainly include metastases from primary tumors located in other parts of the body. These are scattered cancer cells that can originate, for example, from breast cancer or lung cancer , but also different types of cancer. They are malignant and often spread rapidly throughout the body.
What Are the Causes of Spinal Cord Tumors?
Uncontrolled cell growth usually cannot be attributed to a specific cause. Instead, it is a complex interaction of different factors. Genetic, environmental, and radiation-related causes are all possible.
How Is a Tumor in the Back Noticed?
Patients may experience subtle symptoms that develop slowly. For example, when pressure is applied to the spinal cord, neurological deficits such as sensory disturbances, numbness in the legs, and paralysis may occur. Furthermore, bladder and bowel disorders may occur, but these are rare. A common symptom is non-specific back pain that may radiate.
A thorough neurological and physical medical history is taken. This is followed by imaging using MRI or CT . It is essential to exclude other diseases that cause similar symptoms, including a herniated disc , osteoarthritis , and rheumatism diseases . Also, metastases should be excluded, and a primary tumor search should be performed.
Spinal Cord Tumor Therapy
The observational approach may well be a variant in slow growth and minor symptoms. Additionally, pain therapy may be helpful. However, surgical treatment is recommended for severe symptoms and pronounced paralysis. This is usually the case with extensive tumors. Surgical treatment aims to relieve neuronal structures to avoid pressure damage and pressure-related symptoms.
The surgery is challenging due to the location and is usually performed in a microsurgical manner in the case of smoothly confined tumors to spare surrounding structures. However, a complete removal is usually tricky if the tumor has grown and infiltrates the surrounding tissue. In this case, radiation therapy may be helpful. Radiation therapy is also used for inoperable, incompletely removed, and malignant tumors.
Rehab and Aftercare
Following surgery, the patient should be mobilized as soon as possible. Treatment in a rehabilitation facility may be a reasonable option, depending on the patient's condition and wishes. Regular follow-up examinations should also be carried out.
Prognosis and Chances of Cure
The majority of spinal cord tumors grow slowly and are benign. The main problem of the tumors is their localization in a sensitive location, which makes treatment difficult. This sometimes leads to severe limitations and the risk of paraplegia when pressure is exerted on neural structures. Only surgery can provide relief, which entails risks that should be discussed in detail with the patient.
Which Doctors and Clinics Are Specialized?
Spinal cord tumors are treated surgically by specialists in neurosurgery. Neurosurgical clinics that specialize in treating tumors of the nervous system care for patients and provide inpatient care. There is an interdisciplinary therapy concept with neurologists, rehabilitation physicians, and physiotherapists.
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