The spinal cord and its associated structures are rare sites of tumor occurrence. The most common tumors developing from tissues within the spinal cord are known as astrocytomas or ependymomas. The majority of these tumors are benign and spread beyond the spinal canal is extremely rare. However, due to the compressive effect on the neural elements, these lesions can have a significant neurological impact. The best treatment for this is surgery.
An incision will be made overlying the tumor and the soft tissues dissected to expose the back of the spine. Next, superficial spinal bones are removed to access the spinal canal. Within the spinal canal is a tissue-lined compartment that contains the spinal cord and nerves that are bathed in cerebrospinal fluid. The tissue lining of this compartment is known as the dura. The dura is opened parallel to the long axis of the spine to expose the spinal cord and nerves. Using microsurgical technique, the tumor is dissected free from the surrounding normal structures.
A specimen is sent for pathological analysis during the surgical procedure in order to obtain a preliminary diagnosis. Once the tumor is removed, the dura is sutured closed. The soft tissues overlying the spine are then closed in multiple layers and the skin closed with either staples or a nylon suture. If a water-tight closure of the dura cannot be achieved, the cerebrospinal fluid is diverted away from the operative site through an external drain. The incision is dressed with a gauze bandage.
Post surgery, you may be required to stay in the hospital for monitoring for several days. You’ll remain in bed to optimize healing of the incision site, and you will need to remove strenuous activity from your daily routine after returning home. Physical therapy may be prescribed to help you recover fully and with all possible mobility.