A spine tumor is an abnormal growth of cells that develops within the spinal canal or within the bones of the spine.
There are mainly three types of spine tumors that can cause back pain:
1. Vertebral tumors - tumors which affect the vertebrae (bones of the spine) are known as vertebral tumors. This can be further classified into primary tumors and metastatic tumors.
• Primary tumors – primary tumors occur in the vertebral column and most of them are quite rare and usually grow slowly. They typically occur in younger adults. Osetosarcoma is the most common malignant bone tumor.
• Metastatic tumors – spinal tumors that spread in another area of the body are known as metastatic tumors. These tumors are often accompanied by other symptoms of serious illness such as weight loss, fever/chills, nausea and can produce severe pain in the body.
2. Extramedullary tumors – grows within the spinal canal but outside of the nerves. These tumors may affect spinal cord function by compressing spinal cord. They usually grow slowly and are benign and can cause pain and weakness.
• Meningiomas – these are usually benign and occur in the membranes surrounding the spinal cord. Mostly, middle age or elder women are affected by these tumors.
• Nerve sheath tumors- that grows on the nerve roots of the spinal cord. These are also benign and slowing growing.
3. Intramedullary tumors – can occur inside the spinal cord or inside the individual nerves usually arises from the cells that provide support and insulation of the nervous system. These types of tumors occur mostly in neck and surgery can be difficult to remove this. Any kind of spinal tumors can cause pain, neurological problems and in some cases, paralysis. It can be threatening and can cause permanent disability. Non-surgical treatment is considered as first line of treatment for many metastatic spinal tumors that can vary from medications (like nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs), surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Spine surgery is recommended to remove a benign or malignant tumor, reduces size, or relieves persistent pain depending on some factors like type, size, area, stage of the cancer.
Minimally invasive spinal surgery is done to stabilize the vertebral bones and spinal joints and to relieve pressure from the spinal cord. Some of the spinal conditions are mentioned below that can be treated with minimally invasive spine surgery procedure:
• Degenerative disc
• Herniated disc
• Lumbar spinal stenosis
• Spinal infections
• Spinal instability
• Vertebral compression
• Spinal tumors
As compared to open spine surgery, minimally invasive surgery is safer, faster and needs less recovery time.
There are some other benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery:
• Less scarring due to small incisions
• Less blood loss
• Less chances of muscle damage
• Reduced risk of infection
• Short recovery time
• Less pain
• Can be performed as outpatient procedure
Doctor will perform some special tests like MRI or CT scan to know the exact location and the type of tumor along with evaluation of overall health condition of the patient. Patient may experience pain, numbness or weakness due to spinal tumor. During the procedure, patient will be given anesthesia through intravenous line. Surgeon will then make a small incision in the back and will remove the tumor with the help of specialized instruments from the spinal cord, relieving pressure from the spinal nerves. After the tumor is removed, incision will be closed with stitches. Patient can go back home within a day except in some of the cases.
Patient may recover differently from minimally invasive spinal tumor surgery and many patients can resume their daily activities and previous healthy lifestyle within 4 to 6 weeks. The recovery can be longer and can take several months in case the tumor is causing neurological problems. Doctor will advise physical therapy or additional treatment to faster the recovery. Some tumors can fully be removed with minimally invasive spinal tumor surgery whereas other tumors may be partially removed and may require radiation therapy to treat the spinal tumor completely.
Every surgical procedure carries with it some risk that includes but is not limited to:
• Reaction to anesthesia
• Unexpected blood loss
• Spinal fluid leak
• Worsen pain
Sometimes there is also small chance that the initial minimally spinal surgery cannot be completed, may require either a second procedure or full open surgery