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Spinal Tumor Surgery

What is a Spinal Tumour?

A spinal tumour is an abnormal mass of tissue surrounding or found within your spinal cord and/or spinal column.

Types of Spinal Tumours

Spinal tumours can be described in various ways based on their characteristics and location:

  • Primary tumours: Originate in your spinal column or spinal cord.
  • Secondary tumours: Spread from another part of your body to the spine (metastasis).
  • Benign (non-cancerous).
  • Malignant (cancerous).
  • Cervical.
  • Thoracic.
  • Lumbar.
  • Sacral.
  • Intradural extramedullary.
  • Intramedullary.
  • Extradural.

Spinal tumours that originate within the spinal cord or spinal column are named according to the tissues in which they develop:

  • Meningiomas.
  • Schwannomas.
  • Neurofibromas.
  • Ependymomas.
  • Astrocytomas.
  • Lipomas.

Indications for Spinal Tumour Surgery

Treatment for a spine tumour may be nonsurgical or surgical depending on the characteristics of the tumour and your overall health.

Primary spinal tumours may be resected whole to cure the condition.

In cases of metastatic tumours, your doctor may recommend surgery if:

  • You have pain that cannot be managed with conservative treatments.
  • The tumour is compressing on the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Your spine requires stabilization as it may fracture due to a growing tumour.

Surgery for metastatic tumours thus focuses on improving your quality of life.

Goals of Spinal Tumour Surgery

The goals of spinal tumour surgery include:

  • Remove the tumour to the greatest extent possible.
  • Minimize damage to the spine and surrounding structures.
  • Improve the stability of your spine.

Surgery to Treat a Spine Tumour

If surgical resection is possible, your doctor may perform a preoperative embolization procedure. During this procedure, your doctor will:

  • Insert a catheter (flexible tube) through an artery in the groin.
  • Guide the catheter up via the blood vessels to reach the tumour.
  • Deliver a glue-like liquid embolic agent that blocks the vessels feeding the tumour.

This procedure helps control bleeding during surgical removal of the tumour.

The spinal tumour may be approached from the back or front of the spine depending on its location. For extensive tumours (usually of the thorax and lumbar spine), surgery may be performed in stages, first approaching the tumour from the back and then the front.

All or part of the tumour may be removed to decompress the spine. This may be done at multiple levels and may involve the removal of vertebral bodies. Unstable areas of the spine are stabilized using fixation devices.

Recovery After Spinal Tumour Surgery

After surgery, your hospital stay may range from 2 to 14 days depending on your condition. You may be asked to participate in a physical rehabilitation program either in a hospital, outpatient facility or at home.


Your recovery after spine surgery greatly depends on:

  • Your age and overall health.
  • The type and extent of the tumour.
  • The complexity of your surgery.

The recovery time after the surgery may last three months or extend up to a year.

  • King's College London
  • Stanford University
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • The Royal College of Surgeons of England