Tumors are the abnormally rapid growth of tissue, where the normal turnover of tissue cells is outpaced by the abnormal cell growth. The result is a mass of tissue, a tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant. When they grow in the spinal area, our Texas Neurosurgery team removes them with surgery.
What kinds of spinal tumors are there?
Spinal tumors are described as extradural, intradural/extramedullary, and intradural/intramedullary. Extradural tumors are within the spine but outside the sac (dura) that holds the spinal cord, nerve roots, and spinal fluid. Intradural tumors are within the dural sac and can be extramedullary (outside the spinal cord) or intramedullary (within the spinal cord).
The majority of extradural tumors are the result of metastasis, where a tumor originated elsewhere in the body and spread to the spine by depositing cells in the bloodstream. These spine tumors can cause pain due to bone destruction or neurological dysfunction from compression of the spinal cord or the nerve roots. Treatments aim to preserve stability, reduce pain, and maintain neurological function. Complete surgical removal of tumors on the bony spine is usually not practical. Usually a combination of surgical removal and radiation is used for treatment.
Intradural tumors in the dural sac are less common than those affecting the bony spine. They occur either inside or outside the spinal cord. Intradural tumors outside of the spinal cord are mostly two types: meningiomas and nerve sheath tumors. Meningiomas arise from cells attached to the sac enclosing the spinal cord, the dura. These tumors are typically benign, but they can cause nerve compression and pain. For these tumors, we use surgical resection. Because they do not form on the actual spinal cord, they are relatively easy to remove.
Complete tumor resection is usually most effective in treating spinal tumors. We perform these procedures with the patient under general anesthesia. We constantly monitor the spinal cord during the procedure. We open the dura to expose the spinal cord and nerves. Then we remove the tumor.
We often use lasers for these procedures, as they enable our team to reach tumors that are physically hard to access. Plus, lasers can increase the odds that we can remove the entire tumor with a lower risk of complications and less potential damage to nearby nerve tissue. That’s a good combination for everyone.
If you are having symptoms of nerve compression, one of the causes could be a spinal tumor pressing on your spinal cord or the nerve roots exiting the spinal canal. Call us at Texas Neurosurgery, (214) 823-2052, and let’s see how we can help.