Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: February 5, 2019
Neurofibromas are small, benign tumors that can develop on peripheral nerves in the spine. They grow from the cells that form and support the nerve sheath, and they can disrupt many different areas of the nerve. Sometimes they form on their own, while other times they can develop in clusters. You may not even know you’re dealing with a neurofibroma, because they don’t always cause symptoms. Today, we take a closer look at how these spinal tumors are treated.
Symptoms of Neurofibromas
Symptoms of neurofibromas depend on a number of different factors, including where the tumor is located and how large it is. In most cases, these tumors are very small and are symptomless, but they can grow and cause nerve or other compression-related issues. When symptomatic, the condition can cause:
- Back pain, or worsening back pain.
- Decreased sensation.
- Weakness in the affected area.
- A tingling or electrical-like stimulation when pressure is applied to the area.
- Inhibited bladder control.
Neurofibromas account for roughly three percent of all spinal tumors, although they are probably more common than documented simply because many people may be living with asymptomatic neurofibromas in their spine.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Although they are very small nerve growths, neurofibromas can be detected by a trained eye with the assistance of an MRI exam. If your specialist believes you may be dealing with a spinal growth, an MRI will typically be ordered. A biopsy can also be ordered to ensure you’re dealing with a benign neurofibroma and not a more serious growth.
If the neurofibroma is compressing the spinal cord, your specialist will likely recommend that you start a corticosteroid regimen right away, as this will reduce swelling and limit the compression on the spinal cord. However, in order to fully treat the issue, surgery is typically necessary, because untreated neurofibromas can lead to permanent nerve damage.
The vast majority of neurofibromas can be treated surgically, but if the tumor cannot be fully removed during the operation, radiation therapy can help to decrease the size of the tumor and relieve pressure on the spinal cord. Some surgeons also use concentrated radiation to destroy growth tissue that would traditionally need to be removed during an operation.
Surgery involves making a couple small incisions in order to access the site of the neurofibromas. From there, surgeons use precision techniques to carefully remove all of the tumor tissue while keeping the nerve in tact. These minimally invasive techniques help to keep as much healthy tissue undamaged, and it reduces the risk of other potential complications, like bleeding or infections. Once the tumor has been fully removed, the incision sites are closed and the patient is sent to a recovery ward for a relatively simple rehab.
For more information about neurofibromas or how they are treated, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s clinic today.