Posts Tagged ‘spine surgery’

The Importance of a Second Surgical Opinion

spine-second-opinion-squareIf you’re one of the 13 million Americans suffering from back pain, neck pain or sciatica (pain running down your leg), your doctor may recommend surgery to relieve your discomfort.

While surgery can be life-changing for the better, it certainly isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Surgery comes with its own risks and doesn’t always solve the problem. It may even introduce new ones.

You should get a second opinion before you have surgery. Don’t worry about offending your doctor. Second opinions are common practice. It can give you peace of mind that you’re making the right decision, especially if that decision is to go through with surgery.

Questions to Ask your Doctor

Before you jump into surgery, be sure to ask:

  • What is the likelihood of success?
  • What is the possibility of residual or worsened symptoms?
  • What are the risks of anesthesia?
  • What are the risks of spine surgery?
  • What is the chance of recurrence of my symptoms in the future?
  • What will happen if I don’t have surgery?

Rethinking Surgery

The good news is that most cases of back and neck problems can be resolved without surgery. In fact, spine surgery is only absolutely needed in a small percentage of cases.

If pain is the only symptom, then surgery is almost always elective, and the decision to proceed is based on weighing the risks versus potential benefits.

Surgery is usually the best option for severe weakness due to nerve or spinal cord compression; however every case is unique. Every patient has a different set of symptoms, exam findings, medical comorbidities (other health disorders) and life goals that drive the decision-making process.

Weighing the Options

Fortunately, most of the patients seen at the Emory Spine Center can be treated with less invasive treatments such as physical therapy, spinal injections or tweaking lifestyle choices that affect spine health. Usually surgery should only be considered once the conservative therapies have been exhausted. If you haven’t already, be sure to talk to your doctor about nonsurgical treatment options for your condition.

The decision to have surgery for most people with back or neck problems usually comes down to your lifestyle goals and desired quality of life.

For example, some people don’t mind living with a certain amount of pain and are content to manage it with anti-inflammatory medications. They can function well through day-to-day tasks and are willing to give up some activities, like running, in favor of lower impact exercise like walking. For them, they may feel the investment and risk of surgery isn’t worth it.

Other patients at this same level of discomfort may prefer to have surgery in hopes of less pain and more mobility. For some people, pain may interfere with daily tasks like doing the laundry or even just getting in and out of the bathtub. They may feel the potential benefits of surgery far outweigh the risks.

If your pain and other symptoms keep you from doing the kinds of activities you enjoy, and less invasive treatments haven’t helped you achieve your health and lifestyle goals, surgery might be a reasonable choice.

We Can Help

If you have been told you need surgery and would like a second opinion, then the Emory Spine Center is a great place to start. We will review your current imaging and obtain any necessary X-rays the same day. Once your records are reviewed and a history and physical exam are performed, we will give our own opinion on the best course of action. This will give you peace of mind that you are making the right choices for you and your family.

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About Dr. Gary

gary-matt-webMatthew Gary, MD, attended medical school at the University of Florida where he was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha for academic excellence.  Following medical school, he completed residency training in neurological surgery at Emory University. During his residency, he gave numerous presentations at local and national neurosurgical society meetings and received research awards at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and Georgia Neurosurgical Society.  He went on to complete a complex and minimally invasive spine fellowship at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital under the tutelage of Drs. Barth Green, Allen Levi and Michael Wang.  He is interested in all facets of spine health and maximizing patients’ quality of life with a focus on minimally invasive spine surgery.

Three Emory Surgeons Named to Becker’s Spine Review’s list of Spine Surgeons to Know – 2016

spine250x250Woot woot – it has been a great 2016 so far for Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center! Three of our spine surgeons were recently named to Becker’s Spine Review’s list of Spine Surgeons to Know – 2016. Congratulations to John Heller, MD, and Tim Yoon, MD, on receiving this achievement. Combined, these three physicians represent seventy-three years of spine surgery expertise. Impressively, eight other surgeons named to the list completed their residency and/or fellowship at Emory Healthcare.

Read below to learn what Becker’s Spine Review had to say about our nationally recognized spine surgeons:

Scott Boden, MD: Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Boden serves as the director of Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center and an orthopedic surgery professor at Emory University. He led the research on bone growth factor development and spine fusion technology. Spine and the Journal of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, among other journals, have published his work. Dr. Boden received the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ Kappa Delta Young Investigator Award, Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons’ Marshall R. Urist Young Investigator Award and five North American Spine Society Outstanding Research Paper Awards, among various other honors. Dr. Boden completed his fellowship at Case Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland.

John G. Heller, MD: Dr. Heller is a spine surgeon and the Baur Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Emory Healthcare. He focuses on the research and development of instrumentation in cervical spine surgery, particularly in cervical disc replacement and laminoplasty. He was a Kashiwagi-Suzuki Traveling Fellow and he earned the Volvo Award for Low Back Pain Research. His additional training includes a fellowship with the University of California Medical Center in San Diego.

Tim S. Yoon, MD: Dr. Yoon is an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory Clinic. He is an active researcher, focusing on gene therapy for disc disease. His work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Current Opinion in Orthopaedics and Skeletal Radiology. His clinical interests also include cervical fusion, compression fractures, disc degeneration, discectomy, herniated disc, kyphoplasty, kyphosis and laminoplasty. His additional training includes a spine fellowship in Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago.

About Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center

Every day, the highly regarded physicians and surgeons at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center work together, across metro Atlanta, to diagnose and treat a variety of orthopaedic, sports medicine and spine conditions.

Our physicians use progressive treatment approaches – many of them pioneered right here at Emory and taught around with world. Surgical procedures and other treatments that are rarely performed at other hospitals are routinely performed at Emory. Learn more by clicking here, or call 404-778-3350.

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Takeaways from Dr. Boden’s Spine Surgery Chat

Thanks to everyone who joined us Tuesday, August 25, for our live online chat on “When Should You Consider Spine Surgery?” hosted by Scott Boden, MD, director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center.

If you have been told you need spine surgery, it is important to make sure you have the proper information before electing to have spine surgery. The good news is that less than 10% of patients who experience back or neck problems are actually candidates for surgery.

See all of Dr. Boden’s answers by checking out the chat transcript! Below are a few highlights from the chat:

Question: I have disc degeneration at all lumbar levels, can surgery be performed, if not, what else can be done to relieve pain?

boden-scott

 

Dr. Boden: When there is disc degeneration at all levels and the primary symptom is back pain (and not radiating leg pain), we would typically not suggest surgery. You would have to come in to see a spine specialist to fully address your pain and specific situation, though.

 

Question: If less than 10% of patients who experience back or neck problems are candidates for surgery, why is that?

boden-scott

 

Dr. Boden: The majority of back or neck problems will resolve with time or non-operative treatments such as physical therapy or medications. Only a very small percentage will require or benefit from surgery.

 

Question: Could you walk us through a general sequence of determining whether or not a patient should consider surgery following a disc herniation, PT and epidural steroid injections? Having a hard time sorting out the difference between patience to allow healing and delaying and inevitable surgery now 2 years post injury.

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Dr. Boden: In general, a disc herniation might need surgery if the primary symptom is radiating leg pain rather than just low back pain.

 

 

The majority of disc herniations – over 90% – resolve on their own within three months. During that time steroid injections, physical therapy and medications can be tried to help relieve pain while the body heals the disc.

If the leg pain persists longer than 3 months than the ideal surgical window is between 3 and 6 months after the leg pain started. You can still get acceptable results after 2 years, but the likelihood of success is slightly smaller.

Watch as Dr. Boden shares more insight into when it’s time to consider back surgery in this Fox5 Atlanta news feature. (Note: this news segment contains advertisements and external links which are not endorsed, administered or controlled by Emory Healthcare.)

At the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, our team of highly-trained spine specialists work together to diagnose and treat cervical spine and lumbar spine conditions ranging from herniated discs to more complex problems such as spinal tumors and scoliosis.

To make an appointment with an Emory spine specialist, call 404-778-3350 or complete our online appointment request form >>

 

 

When is Spine Surgery Necessary?

spine-surgery-chatIf you have experienced ongoing back or neck pain, you may have asked yourself at one point, “do I need surgery?”

Low back and neck pain are common conditions that can range from dull, constant aches to sudden, sharp pains that make it difficult to move. There are many causes of spine pain, including injury, ruptured discs and the normal wear and tear that comes with aging. Some diseases and spine conditions may also cause pain, such as:
– Arthritis
– Scoliosis
– Spinal stenosis
– Spondylolisthesis
– Spondylosis

Seek an evaluation from a spine specialist if your pain is severe or persistent. The good news is that less than 10% of patients who experience back or neck problems are candidates for surgery. Many spine conditions can be treated non-operatively, but if you’ve been told you need spine surgery, it’s important to have the proper information before making a decision.

On Tuesday, August 25, 2015, at noon EST, join Scott Boden, MD, director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, for an interactive web chat to discuss when you should — and shouldn’t — elect to undergo spine surgery. Sign up for the chat >>

Sign Up for the Chat

Related Resources
When Should You Consider Spine Surgery?
Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center
Should You See a Spine Specialist? Take our quiz and find out>>

About Scott Boden, MD

boden-scottScott D. Boden, MD, is Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Dr. Boden started practicing at Emory in 1992. During his fellowship at Case Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland, Dr. Boden trained with one of the founding fathers of modern spine surgery, Dr. Henry Bohlman. A primary original researcher on bone growth factor development and spine fusion technology, Dr. Boden is also an internationally renowned lecturer and teacher and the driving force behind the Emory University Orthopedics & Spine Hospital (EUOSH).

 

Dr. Boden’s Clinical Interests:
Dr. Boden’s areas of clinical interest include surgical and nonsurgical management of adult degenerative spinal disorders including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis in the cervical and lumbar spine. He was recently named in another Becker’s list of Top 50 Spine Surgeons in the U.S. and is a skilled surgeon with techniques of microdiscectomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion, and laminoplasty.

The Road to Emory: Education
• Medical School: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 1986
• Internship: George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. 1987
• Residency: George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. 1991
• Fellowship: Case Western Reserve University Hospital, Cleveland, OH 1992

Personal:
Dr. Boden is the proud father of triplets who graduated first and tied for second in their high school class. He is also a baseball aficionado and coaches high school and travel softball teams.

National Recognition for Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center

boden-scottIn the May 2015 issue of Spine magazine, a special review section highlights the 100 most frequently cited research papers on lumbar (lower back) spine surgery.

After reviewing more than 16,500 papers that matched the search criteria, the research team compiling the data determined 322 papers that were cited at least 100 times.

One of the top three most frequently cited authors was Scott D. Boden, MD, director of Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center.

“This [review] identifies those individuals whose contributions to the ever-growing body of knowledge have provided guidance and suggestions for further investigation,” says Samuel K. Cho, MD. Cho and his colleagues from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, performed the review.

Earlier this year, Dr. Boden was recognized in the highly regarded medical publication Becker’s Spine Review as one of the top 55 spine surgeons on the forefront of biologics & stem cell. Dr. Boden’s selection into this prestigious group was because of his work and research on spine fusion, spinal disorders and bone regeneration.

So what does this mean for patients? Dr. Boden, along with his highly-trained colleagues, are often recognized nationally and internationally for being on the forefront of research. The information discovered during research is communicated through research papers and publications and used to:

  • perfect and deliver outstanding patient care.
  • educate other physicians around the world.
  • train the next generations of surgeons and physicians.

Congratulations to Dr. Boden and all our physicians and staff at Emory Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine for your tireless effort in delivering leading patient care.

To see an Emory orthopaedic, sports or spine specialist, complete our online appointment form or call 404-778-3350.

National Recognition for Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center

boden-scottIn the May 2015 issue of Spine magazine, a special review section highlights the 100 most frequently cited research papers on lumbar (lower back) spine surgery.

After reviewing more than 16,500 papers that matched the search criteria, the research team compiling the data determined 322 papers that were cited at least 100 times.

One of the top three most frequently cited authors was Scott D. Boden, MD, director of Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center.

“This [review] identifies those individuals whose contributions to the ever-growing body of knowledge have provided guidance and suggestions for further investigation,” says Samuel K. Cho, MD. Cho and his colleagues from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, performed the review.

Earlier this year, Dr. Boden was recognized in the highly regarded medical publication Becker’s Spine Review as one of the top 55 spine surgeons on the forefront of biologics & stem cell. Dr. Boden’s selection into this prestigious group was because of his work and research on spine fusion, spinal disorders and bone regeneration.

So what does this mean for patients? Dr. Boden, along with his highly-trained colleagues, are often recognized nationally and internationally for being on the forefront of research. The information discovered during research is communicated through research papers and publications and used to:

  • perfect and deliver outstanding patient care.
  • educate other physicians around the world.
  • train the next generations of surgeons and physicians.

Congratulations to Dr. Boden and all our physicians and staff at Emory Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine for your tireless effort in delivering leading patient care.

To see an Emory orthopaedic, sports or spine specialist, complete our online appointment form or call 404-778-3350.

Emory Spine Patient Story: “I wanted to walk down my long driveway – I can now.”

By Sara Dollar, Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center patient

Scoliosis PatientAt the age of 12, I started seeing a chiropractor. In my early teenage years, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. Doctors told me that by the time I reached the age of 45, I might not be able to breathe if the scoliosis got bad enough. My spine was shaped like a perfect “S.” I had my first surgery in 1977, followed by several more surgeries. Surgery after surgery left me in excruciating pain. I lived my life, but because my spine was stuck in a bad position, I walked crooked, I couldn’t stand up straight, I couldn’t walk my dogs, and I couldn’t walk five feet without my back spasming. I had become like a hermit crab.

In September 2014, I was referred to John M. Rhee, MD, a spinal surgeon at the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center, because I had a very delicate problem that my former surgeons could not handle. Dr. Rhee explained to me what could be done, and I was so excited that I wanted to have surgery on the same day as my office visit! But because my problem was very severe, and the required surgery would be complex, Dr. Rhee asked me to go home and discuss this with my family. I was so grateful for this! After much thought, I decided to have surgery – a lumbar osteotomy, which is a major operation done only at highly- specialized spine centers, like Emory, because of its complexity.

I had done so much research on Emory and Dr. Rhee that even before my first scheduled appointment I knew that I had made the right decision. I felt comfortable. Before I went into surgery, I made some goals that I wanted to attain after my procedures: mainly, I just wanted to live without pain. I am happy to say that Dr. Rhee helped me achieve this!

I had two planned surgeries to correct my severe scoliosis and kyphosis. They were done on January 22 and 23, 2015. Compression on the nerves had to be relieved along with fusion and correction of the deformed areas of the spine. My previous hardware had to be removed and repositioned properly, and a wedge of bone was removed from one of my vertebrae in order to realign my spine so I could stand up straight again. This was a major procedure because I had had multiple prior surgeries that left my spine severely deformed.

At my six week checkup, I was walking without any assistance from a cane, walker or person. I think I surprised Dr. Rhee with how well I was doing and how quickly I had recovered.

While I am still healing, I am not in any pain and am accomplishing all of my goals. I wanted to walk down my long driveway – I can now. I wanted to be able to walk down the beach – I can now. I wanted the freedom of walking into a store to grab some milk and bread without needing or using a shopping cart – I can now. When the time comes, I want to run after my future grandchildren, and because of my surgery, I believe I will be able to.

My advice to others considering spine surgery; do not be afraid, stop living in pain, quit suffering and get your good quality of life back. Surgery is not the answer for everyone, but if it is, I would not trust anyone other than the renowned spine surgeons at Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center. Thanks to them, I am living well and attaining my goals.

About Dr. Rhee

John Rhee, MDJohn M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

How Aging Affects Your Cervical Spine – Part I: Pinched Nerve

Pinched NerveThe cervical spine refers to that portion of the spinal column that is within our neck. This section of the spine has two essential roles: providing flexibility so that we can move our head up and down and side to side, and protecting the spinal cord nerves that pass through it. Cervical radiculopathy, or pinched nerve, tends to occur when the nerve roots are irritated or compressed by one of many conditions.

Cause

Cervical radiculopathy can occur in a wide variety of patients, with those younger than 50 tending to suffer as a result of disc herniations. Other than trauma or injury, degenerative conditions as a result of aging are the main cause of neck pain. As disks age, they lose height and the vertebrae move closer together, causing the body to respond by forming more bone—called spurs—around the disk to strengthen it. However, the spurs can also contribute to stiffening of the spine. Bone spurs may also narrow the area of the foramen and pinch the nerve root.

Symptoms

The primary symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include pain radiating from the neck into the shoulder, upper arm, forearm, or hand.  Sometimes the symptoms radiate into all of these areas, whereas in other cases, the symptoms may radiate to only some of these areas.  Other associated symptoms can include tingling and numbness.  In some cases, weakness of various muscle groups in the shoulder, arm, and hand may occur.

Treatments

Non-surgical:

Interventional treatments for cervical radiculopathy are generally attempted first and may include:

  • Physical therapy and/or exercise to help relieve the pressure on the nerve root. Stretching as many dimensions of the neck as possible is essential to maintain flexibility and relieve chronic stiffness.
  • Medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and pain and analgesics to relieve pain.
  • Use of a cervical collar, cervical pillows, or neck traction may also be recommended to stabilize the neck and improve alignment.
  • Injections of steroid medications around the affected nerve root, commonly known as nerve root or epidural injections, can be considered for pain relief as well.

Surgical Treatment:

If symptoms persist despite nonoperative care, or if there is substantial motor weakness, surgical treatment is recommended and generally has excellent outcomes.  In fact, cervical spine surgery generally has the best outcomes of any spinal operation.  Surgical treatment generally involves relieving the pressure off of the affected nerve root.  Depending on the circumstances, it may be performed either from the front (anterior) or back (posterior) of the neck, although the anterior approach is more common.

Some of the surgical spine procedures used to treat cervical radiculopathy at the Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center are:

At the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center, our internationally-recognized spine surgeons research, pioneer and refine the most effective approaches to treating a variety of spine conditions.

Should you make an appointment with an Emory spine specialist? Take our five minute quiz and find out!

About Dr. Rhee

John Rhee, MDJohn M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

Related Resources

When Should You Consider Spine Surgery?

Spine SurgeryHave you been told you need spine surgery? If so, it’s reasonable to feel anxious or overwhelmed, which is why it’s especially important to gather appropriate information you’ll need to be an active part of the decision-making process. Below are a few things to consider before spine surgery:

  1. Over 90% of back and neck problems can be resolved without surgery. Nonsurgical treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, ice, heat, spinal injections and physical therapy.
  2. Rates of recommending surgery for the same problem vary widely in different parts of the country (and world), suggesting that the criteria for surgery are not always clear.
  3. Surgery does not benefit every type of spinal condition. While some conditions have a high success rate after surgery, others have less predictable success rates following surgery.
  4. 98% of all spine surgery is technically elective surgery, meaning it should be the choice of the patient, not something mandated by the surgeon.

Spine surgery is only needed in a small percentage of cases. Before surgery, it’s important to understand the likelihood of success, the possibility of residual or worsened symptoms, the risks of anesthesia, the risks of the spine surgery itself, and chances of recurrence in the future.

If your surgeon insists you must have surgery or has not discussed all of the points above with you, then you may benefit from a surgical second opinion.

In this radio clip taken during last month’s American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Annual Meeting, Dr. Boden shares more insight into spine surgery and when it’s appropriate. Listen>>

 

At Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, our spine surgeons and specialists are frontrunners in the research, development and perfection of the most effective approaches to treating spine, orthopedic, and sports medicine conditions, and our teaching other around the world to do the same.

To see if you may be a candidate for spine surgery, complete our spine quiz. Click to learn more about spine care at Emory, or call 404-778-7777.

 

About Scott Boden, MD

Scott Boden, MDScott D. Boden, MD, is Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Dr. Boden started practicing at Emory in 1992. During his fellowship at Case Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland, Dr. Boden trained with one of the founding fathers of modern spine surgery, Dr. Henry Bohlman. A primary original researcher on bone growth factor development and spine fusion technology, Dr. Boden is also an internationally renowned lecturer and teacher and the driving force behind the Emory University Orthopedics & Spine Hospital (EUOSH).

Dr. Boden’s Clinical Interests:
Dr. Boden’s areas of clinical interest include surgical and nonsurgical management of adult degenerative spinal disorders including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis in the cervical and lumbar spine. He was recently named in another Becker’s list of Top 50 Spine Surgeons in the U.S. and is a skilled surgeon with techniques of microdiscectomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion, and laminoplasty.

The Road to Emory: Education
• Medical School: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 1986
• Internship: George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. 1987
• Residency: George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. 1991
• Fellowship: Case Western Reserve University Hospital, Cleveland, OH 1992

Personal
Dr. Boden is the proud father of triplets who graduated first and tied for second in their high school class. He is also a baseball aficionado and coaches high school and travel softball teams.

Related Links

Spinal Tumor Symptoms & Treatment

Spinal TumorsTumors, whether cancerous (malignant tumors) or noncancerous (benign tumors), can develop and affect bones anywhere in the body, but when a tumor develops in or near your spinal cord or within the bones of your spine, it can be an especially serious condition.

Your spine is an extremely important part of your body as it holds up your head, shoulders and upper body. It also houses and protects your spinal cord and the nerve roots that control your arms, legs, and torso. The spine is made up of 31 small bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another and make up the three sections of your spine (cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine) forming the natural curves of your back.

Your spinal cord runs through the middle part of the vertebra, which is called the spinal canal, and extends from the skull to the lower back. Spinal nerves branch out from the spinal cord through openings in the vertebrae, carrying signals between the brain and muscles.

The most common type of spinal tumor is one that spreads (a metastasis) from cancer arising in another part of the body, such as the breast, lung, kidney, prostate, thyroid, blood cells, or other tissues. Rarely, spinal tumors arise from the nerves of the spinal cord itself. Primary spinal tumors are those that arise from the bones in the spine – these are also relatively rare.

The closeness of a tumor to the spine and nerves that run through and between your vertebrae determines the severity of the condition. Tumors can compress and interfere with nerve function, affecting the messages being sent to and from your brain to the rest of your body. Since the spinal cord is relatively narrow, tumors within it may cause symptoms on both sides of the body. Tumors can also weaken the vertebrae, causing the spine to collapse and potentially cause pain or injure the nerves housed within.

Spinal tumors are different for each unique patient since they originate from different areas or develop from different cell types. Depending on where the tumor is, how advanced it is, how quickly it is growing and whether it is malignant or benign, symptoms and treatment options vary.

Common symptoms of spinal tumors include:

  • Pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of sensation or numbness (in the legs, arms or trunk)
  • Loss of bladder/ bowel control
  • Difficulty using arms or legs, inability to walk

Treatment for spinal tumors is determined on a case by case basis and may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other medications. If surgery is necessary, the goals are to stabilize the spinal column, relieve nerve pressure caused by the tumor, protect the nerves and spinal cord and remove as much of the tumor as safely possible.

For more information about spinal tumors and spine tumor treatment, visit Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Our world renowned, highly skilled, specialized and experienced team includes orthopedic spine surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic oncologists and radiologists, all working together to diagnose and treat a wide range of spinal tumors.

About Dr. Rhee

John Rhee, MDJohn M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

Related Resources

Patient Video Story: Back to Life after Spinal Tumor Surgery