The spinal cord and surrounding tissues are rare sites for tumors to grow. When they do occur, they are often benign and rarely spread beyond the spinal column. However, because of their location, they may put pressure on the spine and cause significant neurological problems. For this reason, UPMC neurosurgeons typically recommend resection, or surgical removal of the tumor. Resection surgery can be performed for a number of spinal tumors, including meningiomas, neurofibromas, and schwannomas.
During resection surgery, our surgeons make an incision over the tumor and dissect the soft tissues to expose the back of the spine. The spinal bones (laminae) are removed to access the spinal canal. The tissue-lined compartment that contains the spinal cord and nerves that are surrounded by spinal fluid is called the dura. The surgeon opens the dura to expose the spinal cord and nerves and remove the tumor. Then the dura is then sutured and closed. Patients are usually admitted to the hospital for several days after surgery. They must remain in bed to promote wound healing, and may work with a physical therapist or rehabilitation specialist, depending on the extent of neurological damage.