Some spinal tumors, benign or malignant, require surgical intervention before or after non-operative treatments. Surgery is considered for tumors when pain is unresponsive to non-operative treatment, neurologic deficits progress, a specimen is needed, compression is present, vertebral destruction exists, and/or when spinal stabilization is necessary. The primary goals in surgery are to restore or preserve neurologic function, provide spinal stability, and reduce pain.
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. Tumors may also develop from supporting tissues of the spinal cord and nerves, such as schwannomas, neurofibromas, or meningiomas. Many of these tumors are benign and may not spread beyond the spinal canal. Due to the compressive effect on the neural elements, however, these lesions can produce significant neurological deficit. Adjuvant therapy in the form of radiation or chemotherapy has little effect. Surgical resection is regarded as the treatment of choice.