What are the intramedullary spinal cord tumors?

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The spinal cord is a tube consisting of nerve bundles running along the spinal canal, carrying messages from the brain to the body and vice versa. The formation of a tumor in or around the spinal canal is called a spinal cord tumor. These tumors may be benign (localized) or malignant (can transfer to other body parts). Whether malignant or benign, these tumors can compress the nerve bundles passing nearby causing numbness, pain, and loss of sensations in the affected area.

The best spine surgeon in India Dr. Kalyan Bommakanti has classified the various sub-types of intramedullary spinal cord tumors according to their size and location.

  1. Intramedullary tumors:

Spinal cord tumors that grow inside the spinal cord are called intramedullary tumors. Usually, they appear in the cervical/neck region. These tumors are further classified into sub-types such as:

i. Ependymoma:

Ependymal cells are located in the spinal cord and act as a lining to the central canal while helping in regulating the fluid flow within the spinal canal. The tumor of these cells is called Ependymoma – the most common type of spinal cord tumors. These tumors spread at a slow rate and can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and bowel and bladder incontinence.

ii. Astrocytoma:

Astrocytes are star-shaped cells (gliomas) located in the spinal cord and the brain that regulates the proper functioning of the nerve cells. A tumor of astrocytes is called astrocytoma. Astrocytomas are usually found in the thoracic region. They may cause weakness in the legs and gait problems. This type of spinal cord tumor is most common in children.

iii. Lipomas:

Lipomas are congenital and are very rare. They arise in the fat tissue present in the middle of the back i.e. cervicothoracic region.

iv. Hemangioblastoma:

This type of tumor is usually non-cancerous and can occur in any area of the spinal cord. They arise in the blood vessels lining the spinal cord and the brain. It may cause disturbance in the balance and weakness in various parts.

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