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Treating Neurofibroma in the Spine in Northern New Jersey

A patient talks with a doctorAneurofibroma is a type of tumor that can develop on nerves anywhere in the body. They are benign, meaning they are not cancerous tumors. The medical staff at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics treats many different types of spinal tumors, including neurofibromas. Located in New Jersey, CNSO is a comprehensive care center for brain, spine, and back conditions. 

What Causes Neurofibromas?

Many patients with neurofibromas develop them as a result of a condition called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). This genetic disorder causes mutations in the NF1 gene, which makes a protein called neurofibromin. This protein prevents cells from growing or dividing too quickly. Some patients inherit NF1 from a parent. However, according to Cleveland Clinic, about half of patients with NF1 have no family history of the condition.

Individual neurofibromas can occur in patients who do not have NF1. Called sporadic neurofibromas, their cause is unknown, and they often can be managed without surgery.

There are several types of neurofibromas:

  • Spinal neurofibroma: These tumors grow on the nerves that exit the spine and are more common in adults than in children.
  • Cutaneous neurofibroma: The most common type of neurofibroma, these tumors look like lumps on the skin.
  • Diffuse neurofibroma: These tumors grow on the surface as well as in deeper layers of the skin.
  • Intramuscular neurofibroma: This type of neurofibroma develops on small nerves in the muscle tissue.
  • Plexiform neurofibromas: This type of tumor can occur in any node (or plexus) of nerves in the body, such as the sciatic nerve. Because plexiform neurofibromas can become cancerous over time, they should be closely monitored.

Some neurofibromas are present at birth but are not diagnosed until later when a patient begins experiencing symptoms.

Symptoms

A patient with neurofibromas may not experience any symptoms at all. However, if a neurofibroma is pressing against a patient’s spinal cord, they may experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain, tingling, or numbness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Weakness in the limbs
  • Changes in bladder or bowel function
  • Paralysis in parts of the body

If the tumor is creating a muscular imbalance or affecting the bones of the spine, a patient could develop scoliosis, a condition in which the spine curves into an S-shape.

Diagnosis

In addition to completing a physical examination and reviewing a patient’s medical history, a doctor may use the following tests to diagnose a neurofibroma:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

These tests help healthcare providers determine where a tumor is located and identify whether any surrounding tissues or nerves are affected. A PET scan also can help determine if a tumor is malignant or benign.

Treating Spinal Neurofibromas

If a neurofibroma is benign and is not affecting the surrounding nerves, surgery may not be required. Regular check-ups and imaging to monitor the neurofibroma may be sufficient. However, if the neurofibroma is causing symptoms, surgery may be recommended.

Spinal Surgery

Surgical removal of neurofibromas often can be performed using minimally invasive techniques, reducing the amount of trauma to the surrounding tissues. The goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible without damaging the surrounding nerves. The tumor also may be biopsied after it is removed.

Patients should be aware that some neurofibromas may grow back after surgery. Post-surgical care may include imaging tests to determine if any tumors are growing back.

Radiation Therapy

If a tumor cannot be safely removed via surgery without damaging the surrounding nerves, radiation therapy may be an option. By delivering targeted doses of radiation, this treatment can shrink or eradicate a tumor, alleviating pressure on the spinal cord. CNSO’s surgeons take advantage of the latest technology in stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) to treat brain and spinal tumors, such as:

  • CyberKnife
  • Gamma Knife
  • Linear accelerator (LINAC)

These treatment methods deliver radiation with pinpoint accuracy to ensure there is no damage to surrounding tissue, and they do not require any incisions.

Treatment for Spinal Tumors at CNSO

In addition to neurofibroma, the medical staff at CNSO has extensive experience in treating patients with other types of spinal tumors, such as:

  • Astrocytoma: One of the most common types of spinal cord tumors, astrocytomas are most prevalent among adults in their 30s. The tumor arises in the astrocytic glial cells and can occur anywhere in the spine.
  • Chondrosarcoma: This type of tumor is malignant and develops in cartilage cells and can cause bone pain, weakness, and headaches.
  • Chordoma of the spine: These tumors are more common in female patients than males. They can develop anywhere along the spine and may grow back after treatment.
  • Ependymoma: This type of spinal tumor is very rare and can cause pain, weakness, and sensory changes.
  • Intramedullary cyst: While not technically tumors, these benign growths develop within the cells of the spinal cord. They are usually slow-growing and asymptomatic.
  • Meningioma of the spine: These tumors develop in the meninges, a thin layer of protective tissue that covers the spinal cord.
  • Spine schwannoma: This type of spinal tumor arises in the lining of the nerve cells of the spine. Symptoms can include impaired nerve function and even paralysis.
  • Spinal hemangioblastoma: A benign tumor that develops in the linings of blood vessels, hemangioblastomas also can form in the brain or retina.

Learn More About Treatment Options for Neurofibroma

Recognized as a Spine Center of Excellence since 2008, CNSO’s team includes award-winning neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, and physiatrists. Patients will find expert, compassionate care, focused on achieving the best possible health outcomes. CNSO is based in Northern New Jersey and has multiple locations to serve patients in the surrounding area. To schedule an initial appointment, contact the medical team at CNSO today.

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Medical Staff Members of Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics

Our Medical Staff

In order to provide an accurate diagnosis with the most effective treatment option for “back problems” and brain tumors, CNSO is led by neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons. Under the care of our award-winning neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons, Northern NJ patients can have the confidence that their medical condition will be handled with consideration for their comfort and long-term well-being as well as technical excellence.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics
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