In the past, thoracic discectomy, which is the surgical removal of the herniated portion of a disc, was an invasive and tricky procedure because of the location of the discs and all the surrounding organs. But now this surgery can be performed with the help of an endoscope and an X-ray that allow for the surgery to be carefully executed through tiny incisions. The removal of the herniated disc portion relieves pressure on the nerve roots and reduces pain.
Thoracic Tumor Resections
Many, but not all, thoracic tumors require surgical intervention. Small, benign tumors may simply be kept under observation, whereas larger tumors, particularly those that are progressing, usually must be removed (as must malignant tumors). Regardless of its size, or whether it is benign or malignant, a thoracic tumor that is causing persistent neck or upper-back pain, balance problems or difficulty walking requires surgical removal. Primary, self-contained tumors may be removed by a complete resection that, it is hoped, will effect a permanent cure. If such tumors have metastasized, however, the operation is considered palliative, aimed at preserving or restoring neurological function, providing pain relief and stabilizing the spine.
Candidates for Thoracic Tumor Resection
In general, surgery is only considered for patients with tumors that are:
- Large or growing
- Causing spinal instability
- Causing nerve compression and neurological symptoms
- Resistant to radiation and chemotherapy
- Causing persistent pain
Before a thoracic resection is performed, the tumor's size, location and stage, as well as the patient's overall health, must be considered. Patients with compromised immune systems, who are malnourished, or who are not expected to survive for at least 3 months are not good candidates for surgery.
Types of Thoracic Tumor Resections
The type of thoracic tumor resection performed depends on the patient's particular spinal tumor and its precise location. Surgeries include the following:
- Kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty
- Spinal stabilization
In some cases, in lieu of these surgical procedures, embolization or radiosurgery is performed as a less invasive alternative. When a thoracic tumor resection is performed, sometimes embolization is performed preoperatively to seal off blood vessels and prevent excessive surgical bleeding.
Recovery from Thoracic Tumor Resection
Typically, patients remain in the hospital for 5 to 10 days after surgery to remove a spinal tumor. Physical rehabilitation is always part of the recovery process. The length of recovery time varies widely, ranging from 3 months to a year. If a primary tumor has been removed completely, there is a good chance for complete recovery. If the tumor has already metastasized, there is usually still palliative benefit to the surgery, which can make the patient much more comfortable and prolong life expectancy.