Brain & Spinal Tumor Surgery & Recovery

Brain Tumor Surgery

The most common types of surgery performed for brain tumors are:


A biopsy of the brain or spine involves removing a piece of tissue or cell, typically for the purpose of examination and deciding on your course of treatment.



Debulking is the surgical removal of a portion of a tumor in order to decrease the tumor burden on a patient and/or to decrease the mass effect on surrounding structures. This technique is often performed in brain surgery when the entire tumor cannot be removed without serious damage to proximate structures.


Gross Total Resection (GTR)

Removal of all visible tumor, and in which subsequent scans show no apparent tumor. GTR is considered when the surgeon believes the entire tumor can be safely removed without substantial risk of unacceptable injury.


Endonasal Endoscopy

An innovative and minimally invasive surgical technique, Endonasal Endoscopy allows the neurosurgeon to remove brain tumors or lesions from the base of the skull or the top of the spine through the nose and sinuses.

Spine Tumor Surgery

Reasons surgery would be a good option for spine tumors:

  • Control of tumor growth by surgical removal, sometimes accompanied by radiation and/or chemotherapy.
  • Improving symptoms by reducing pressure on nerves and stabilizing spine to prevent deformities, collapse or paralysis.


The goal is usually to reduce the severity of symptoms, including:

  • Lessen pain
  • Restore spine stability to improve mobility
  • Preserve neurological function
  • Alter or change outcomes
  • The type of spine surgery will depend on the type of tumor, its location, and the patient’s symptoms.

Types of Spinal Surgical Procedures

Open Procedures

Open procedures may be done with a surgical incision on the anterior or posterior.

  • Decompression: A procedure to remove the bone that has the tumor and to increase the space around the spinal cord and nerves.
  • Stabilization: An application of screws, rods or cement to stabilize the spinal column.
  • Combination: A combination of the above procedures; may be staged one or more days apart.


Minimally Invasive Procedure

A number of small incisions are made during this procedure, into which a tube or tubes are inserted. The number of incisions depends on the type of surgery. The tube or tubes let the doctor insert tiny video cameras and specially designed surgical instruments to perform the procedure.


Complete En Bloc Resection

Primary spinal tumors may be removed through complete en bloc resection – resection of a large bulky tumor without dissection – for a possible cure. In patients with metastatic tumors, treatment is primarily palliative, with the goal of restoring or preserving neurological function, stabilizing the spine and alleviating pain. For cases in which surgical resection is possible, preoperative embolization may be used to enable an easier resection. This procedure involves the insertion of a catheter or tube through an artery in the groin. The catheter is guided through the blood vessels to the tumor, where it delivers a glue – like liquid embolic agent that blocks the vessels that feed the tumor. When the blood vessels that feed the tumor are blocked off, bleeding can often be controlled better during surgery, helping to decrease surgical risks

Brain & Spine Tumor Recovery

Recovery from brain surgery requires substantial rest.


The duration depends on the type of procedure. In addition, surgery is often combined with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormone therapy. While some of these treatments are administered before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) others are administered after surgery (adjuvant therapy). These also effect the recovery process.


Longer-term recovery treatment is designed by our collaborative team of specialists. Depending on its location, a brain tumor can cause weakness, loss of balance, speech problems, and loss of vision. Various types of rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational, are important to address these side effects.


In addition, those recovering from brain tumor surgery may experience emotional or cognitive difficulties and changes. These outcomes are also dealt with by special cognitive rehabilitation therapy.


Periodic MRI scans are also performed to check for any new tumor growth.


The patient’s recovery after spinal tumor surgery and length of stay in the hospital will vary by the extent and type of surgery. Each patient responds and recovers differently.


After surgery, you may need help with daily activities. This is referred to as rehabilitation. Rehabilitation may be done in an inpatient setting, which means you are admitted to a rehab unit or hospital. It can also be done as an outpatient, which means you could receive therapy in your home or be transported to a rehab facility during the week.


The possible effects of the tumor and its treatment on your physical and mental function can range from mild to severe. After surgery, the patient may need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist to determine the extent of any damage caused by the tumor or surgery. If the patient was treated with surgery for a tumor near the base of the brain, pituitary hormone production may be affected and an endocrinologist might be recommended. If hormone levels are affected, hormone treatments to restore normal levels may be needed for the rest of your life.


Post-Surgery and Recovery

Following treatment, the tumor is sent to the pathologist. Genetic testing is often performed, as well. The ANA multidisciplinary team of medical experts – your or your child’s Tumor Board – including surgeons, neurologists, neuro-pathologists, neuro-oncologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, physical therapists, nurses, psychologists and social workers meet to review your or your child’s condition, needs and test results. This team approach is also taken in the recommendation of the personalized treatment protocol for you or your child child.


Tumor Board

The tumor board is a conference where a neurosurgeon, neuro-oncologist, radiation oncologist, neuroradiologist, social worker and other medical professional convene to discuss the plan and care for the individual patient.