A spine tumor can occur in any area of the spine - the cervical or neck area, the thoracic or chest area, or the lumbar or lower back region of the spinal column. Spinal tumors can grow and place compression or pressure against the spinal cord and spinal nerves and cause pain as well as affecting mobility and range of motion. Spinal tumors may also cause symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and in some cases, partial or full paralysis and immobility.
The spinal cord is the nerve pathway between the brain and the rest of the body. A spinal tumor may affect a person's ability to breathe or speak, while other tumors may affect the body's vital organs and their function due to compression against nerve pathways, blood vessels, or by interrupting nerve signals from the brain that tell the organ how to function.
The goal of spinal tumor removal surgery is to remove the tumor in its entirety, but also to reduce the chance of permanent damage to nerves, nerve pathways and the spinal cord itself.
Advanced medical technology has enabled surgeons to remove spinal tumors that were previously inaccessible due to potential damage and death caused by spinal surgery. Today, neurosurgeons are able to use laser-assisted and high-powered microscopes in a field called microsurgery.
Using such technology, doctors are now able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy tissue as well as to view microscopic blood vessels and nerves within the operating field. Throughout the spinal surgery procedure, doctors can test the function of nerves using electrodes that helps to prevent nerve damage. Advancements in spinal surgery technologies also employ the use of sound waves that effectively disintegrate tumors. Special suctioning tools remove the fragments.
Surgeons are able to remove non-cancerous tumors found in and around the vertebra of the spine. Malignant tumors or those that are cancerous and can spread to other areas of the body are typically more difficult to operate on. Such tumors invade and grow within the spinal column, the bones, muscles and tissues and can even metastasize or travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.
The surgical procedure chosen by a surgeon will depend on the location, size, and severity or symptoms caused by the tumor growth. In most cases, a biopsy will be performed prior to surgical interventions in order to determine whether the tumor is cancerous or non-cancerous, its growth rate, and the patient's prognosis, based on age and overall health condition.
The most common interventions for the removal of spinal tumors include:
These two procedures utilize endoscopic and fluoroscopic or real time x-ray or CT (computed tomography) guidance to help secure the spine following removal of a portion or total vertebral body. Removal of vertebral tumors or fragments may also require the use of kyphoplasty, which creates open spaces or wider openings between the vertebrae with a balloon-type device. These openings are then filled with a special type of cement. These procedures help solidify the vertebra following removal due to tumor resection or excision.
Another common tumor removal procedure in the cervical, thoracic or lumbar region is radio frequency based plasma ablation. This type of procedure debulks the tumor and, like kyphoplasty, creates an opening or cavity for the insertion of bone cement to provide structure and support to the spine following the removal of part of or an entire vertebrae or discs. Radio wave energy beams literally disintegrate the molecular structure and bonds of the tumor to allow for easier removal.
Any type of spinal procedure is expensive, and in the United States may cost up to $80,000. For example, disc repair surgeries in the United States cost approximately $10,000 each, but does not include doctor's fees, which may accrue to roughly $45,000, as well as a hospital stay, diagnostic procedures, x-rays, and medications. In India, such as fusion procedures are approximately priced at $8,700, while laminectomy surgical procedures cost roughly $4,500. Costs for endoscopic laser surgical procedure costs also vary according to location, severity, and geographic location.
Any type of spinal procedure or treatment should be overseen by an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spinal care and spinal surgeries. Orthopedic surgeons should be certified and experienced in all types of spinal surgeries, including cervical, thoracic and lumbar procedures and techniques, and belong to recognized organizations and associations. An oncologist and a vascular surgeon may also be required, depending on the size, location and state of the tumor involved. Consumers should always verify the experience and training of surgeons, facilities and support staff to ensure proper training and expertise, certification, and accreditation for any suggested procedures or techniques.
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