Cervical Tumor Resection
There are several different types of cervical spinal tumors. Primary cervical tumors originate in cells in or near the spine, and involve the spinal cord itself, nerve roots or vertebrae. Such tumors may be benign or malignant. Whether or not they are malignant, they may require removal before or after nonsurgical treatments in order to reduce pain, preserve or restore neurological function, or provide spinal stability. The cause of primary cervical tumors remains largely unknown. Secondary cervical tumors are the result of metastasis, the spreading of malignant cells from an original site somewhere else in the body.
Cervical Tumor Resection Procedures
Usually, the treatment for benign tumors is surgical removal. The goal is to remove, without causing neurological problems, as much of the tumor as possible. Often, such surgery is performed as decompression surgery, during which small amounts of bone are removed from around the spinal cord or nerves in order to relieve pressure, pain and other neurological symptoms.
Surgery to remove cervical tumors may be performed, depending on the location of the tumor and other factors, with an anterior or posterior approach. The procedure may also be performed as traditional open surgery or laparoscopically. Wherever possible, the latter is preferred because it involves smaller incisions, minimal blood loss, less pain, a shorter recovery time and a reduced rate of complications. This minimally invasive surgery may be used both to remove a tumor, and to perform a spinal fusion to stabilize the spine.
A cervical tumor resection is performed under general anesthesia. Spinal cord function is monitored before and during the operation. Once an incision has been made in the tissue covering the tumor, the tissue is pulled back to expose the spine. The laminae, plates of bone that cover the vertebrae, are removed to provide access to the spinal canal. The surgeon then separates and removes the tumor (or as much of it as possible) from its adjacent structures using microsurgical techniques; the tissue is then biopsied. Once the incision is sutured closed, it may be necessary to insert a temporary drain for excess cerebrospinal fluid. The surgical wound is then covered with a protective gauze bandage.
Recovery from Cervical Tumor Resection
After cervical tumor resection, patients remain in the hospital for several days. During healing, they may be required to:
- Walk and begin other everyday movements
- Wear a neck brace to maintain spinal stability
- Refrain from stretching or straining the spine
- Limit lifting for a prescribed period
- Receive radiation if the tumor was malignant
Patients who have undergone cervical tumor resection can expect symptom relief, though it may take days or even months. Physical and occupational therapy may be necessary during the recovery period to restore the patient's mobility, strength and coordination. Pain management, usually in the form of oral analgesics, may also be needed. Physical activity is typically resumed as patients are able to tolerate it, although they should not resume strenuous activities until they are given medical clearance.
Risks of Cervical Tumor Resection
Any surgical procedure carries some risk. In the case of cervical tumor resection, risks include:
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Breathing difficulty
- Excessive bleeding
- Postsurgical infection
- Nerve damage or paralysis
There is also a small risk that the tumor will grow back, requiring a second surgery.