Understanding Meningioma of the Brain or Spine

Profile of Neurosurgeon Dr. Raab, an expert in spine or brain meningioma surgery and treatments

The meninges are the protective membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Central nervous system (CNS) tumors that grow in this membrane are known as meningiomas. Patients can develop meningioma of the spine or brain. These are among the most common types of brain tumors, but fortunately, meningiomas usually are benign (noncancerous).

Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) is New Jersey’s most comprehensive spine and brain center. Learn more from CNSO’s medical team about the symptoms of meningiomas, how they are diagnosed, and treatment options.

Signs and Symptoms of Meningioma

In the early stages, meningioma may not cause any symptoms. As the tumor progresses, symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness, weakness, or tingling feelings in the arms or legs
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Confusion
  • Personality changes
  • Memory problems

Some symptoms are specific to the tumor location. For example, a spine tumor can cause back pain or radiating pain into the arms or legs. In contrast, a meningioma located near the eye sockets can affect a patient’s vision.

Meningioma Risk Factor

Certain patients are more at risk of meningioma than others. Risk factors for this type of tumor include:

  • Age: While meningioma can occur at any age, it is most prevalent among patients over the age of 65.
  • Sex: Women are more likely than men to have benign meningioma.
  • Radiation exposure: Exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation increases the risk of meningioma.
  • Genetic conditions: Patients who have a genetic disorder known as Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) may have a higher risk of meningioma.
  • Racial/ethnic background: In the United States, meningioma is more prevalent among African Americans than it is among white people.

Diagnosing Meningioma

Meningiomas often are not diagnosed until later stages because they can grow slowly without causing any symptoms. If a patient is experiencing possible signs of a spine or brain tumor, their provider will begin with a physical examination. They will review the patient’s medical history and current symptoms and conduct neurological testing. The patient may be referred to a neurologist for further evaluation and imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan. These are painless, non-invasive tests that can create detailed images of the brain and spine. In some cases, a provider also will perform a biopsy to grade the tumor and determine whether it is malignant or benign.

Treatment Options for Meningioma

Each patient is different, and meningioma treatment will depend on several factors. These include:

  • Tumor size
  • Tumor location
  • How quickly the tumor is growing
  • The patient’s overall health

In some cases, meningioma simply requires ongoing monitoring. If the tumor is small and slow-growing, and the patient is not exhibiting any symptoms, they may simply need regular imaging tests.

For meningiomas that are growing or causing symptoms, brain or spine surgery often is the first course of treatment. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible without causing any damage to the brain or spinal cord. If the tumor cannot be completely removed, there is a chance it could grow back. Meningioma of the brain typically is removed using a procedure called a craniotomy. This requires a neurosurgeon to make an incision in the patient’s scalp and remove a small piece of bone from the skull to access the brain. They typically will use real-time MRI guidance to visualize the tumor. Once the tumor has been removed, the neurosurgeon replaces the bone flap and closes the incision site with stitches or surgical staples.

If the meningioma is on the spine, the neurosurgeon typically can perform minimally invasive spine surgery to remove it. They will make a small incision in the back, cut open the meninges, and remove the tumor. Both spinal surgery and craniotomy usually are performed under general anesthesia.

Some patients will have radiation therapy as a treatment for meningioma. This may be used:

  • If surgery is not an option
  • To shrink a tumor before surgery
  • To remove tumor cells that remain after surgery

Advancements in radiation therapy mean that providers can target meningioma with a high dose of radiation while minimizing the risk to the surrounding healthy tissue.

Find Advanced Meningioma Care in New Jersey

Patients with meningioma of the brain or spine can find comprehensive care at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO). Serving patients throughout northern New Jersey, the team at CNSO includes neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, interventional pain management physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and certified physical therapists. The medical team works in collaboration to create personalized treatment plans for each patient and takes a conservative approach to care, offering expert treatment from pain management and physical therapy to back surgery and rehabilitation. For more information about meningioma treatment or to schedule an appointment, contact CNSO today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics