Nerve sheath tumors are part of a larger group i.e. spinal tumors. Depending on their location with respect to the spinal cord, nerve sheath tumors can either be intradural, extradural, intradural intramedullary or intradural extramedullary. Intradural tumors are those within the dura mater while those outside it are extradural tumors. Intradural intramedullary tumors are inside the dura mater as well as the spinal cord, whereas the intradural extramedullary are within the dura mater but outside the spinal cord. The common nerve sheath tumors we have include schwannomas and neurofibromas as well as malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor. The benign nerve sheath tumors fall under the intradural extramedullary category of spinal cord tumors.
What Is The Recovery Period For Nerve Sheath Tumor Surgery?
The expected recovery period after a nerve sheath tumor surgery will be dependent on the tumor location, possible neurological complications, and the approach of surgery. If the tumor is seated deep into the spinal cord, the recovery period will obviously be longer. In cases where the tumor is deep into the spinal cord, it increased the risk of neurological complications. They include; weakness, tingling sensation or numbness, and loss of balance to name a few. Therefore, the expected recovery period for a patient exhibiting the aforementioned symptoms will be longer compared to the recovery for a patient with no complications. In addition to that, if grave damage had been done on the nerves and resulted in immobility, it may take a while longer to recover. This is because there needs to be the restoration of neurological complications and mobility as well. The approach of surgery is not only crucial in successfully removing the nerve sheath tumor, but is also important when it comes to recovery. If the tumor is easily accessible and can be removed via a minimally invasive surgery, then the period of recovery will be shorter. On the other hand, a fully open surgery will take a while longer to recover from. There is also an increased risk of infection, thus the nerve sheath tumor recovery period could even be longer.
The Surgical Procedure
Surgical removal of nerve sheath tumors is dependent on the location and what implications it has on the patient. Other factors considered for nerve sheath tumor surgery include the size of the tumor, whether it is benign or malignant, and the viability of the surgery based on whether the tumor can or cannot be removed. In cases where surgery cannot be done immediately, the patient may first be subjected to chemotherapy and radiation to reduce the size of the growth, and then the remaining portion can be surgically removed. Also, a first surgery can be conducted to remove a portion of the tumor or rather shrink it, and then a second one performed to completely remove the remaining mass. Prior to surgery, a patient undergoes preoperative embolization to limit the risk of bleeding during surgery thus making resection of the tumor much easier. The surgery can either be performed from the back or front, depending on where the tumor is located on the spine. The goal of nerve sheath tumor surgery is usually to completely remove the tumor, and if that is possible, then the doctor will do so and also remove part of the surrounding healthy tissue to reduce the risk of recurrence.
After the nerve sheath tumor surgery, postoperative care is done in the recovery room and intensive care unit (ICU), where one gets to rest until one is stable enough to stay in a common ward. At the time, the patient is usually under intravenous pain medication which with time is replaced with oral pain meds. After the surgical incision has healed, one is subjected to physical therapy so as to restore mobility in any affected areas. If a patient is to undergo physical therapy, it may take a year or two, to completely recover from a nerve sheath tumor surgery. For patients who were clear of any neurological defects, as long as they are able to feed, wash and use the restroom by themselves, then they are free to go home. Normally, it will take about a week for such patients to be discharged from the hospital with their surgical wound almost completely healed. There is no defined recovery period for nerve sheath tumor surgery, but for more details on the expected recovery period, you should talk with your oncologist and surgeon and weigh your options for recovery period.