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Unique experience - thoracotomy, tumor embolization, vertebrectomy

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,322
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic
If there is anyone out there who has gone through a posterior surgery after a thoracotomy or other anterior vertebrectomy, I'd be curious to see what lies ahead for me.

Anyone? Hello? (Insert crickets chirping...)

If anyone does a search of the site looking for personal experiences on thoractomoy, tumor embolization, of vertebrectomy, you may end up here.

It sounds like I've had a somewhat unique collection of experiences, so if you are in the same boat, feel free to PM if you need anything.



  • How were the tumors found? mri? xray? Just curious...in the late 90's had a lipoma found in my pelvis area that never showed on any of these....fearful that i have some more in my thoracic.
  • My doctors found my tumor originally in an MRI (nothing visible on the XRAY). Although it was visible without contrast material on the MRI, it was very obvious when they injected a contrast material. A few days later I had a CT that further confirmed the diagnosis.

    My recent 1 year post op MRI (with and without contrast) has confirmed that the tumor remnants are still growing. Hopefully you can get some answers. Good luck!
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  • What were your pain symptoms? Was this suspected from the beginning or did you go through lots of tests, etc?
  • Minor pain right around the tumor location was my only symptom. The x-ray showed nothing so they had me do 6 weeks of physical therapy (assuming is was muscular). After that I had an MRI and it was very obvious.

    One year later, the remaining part tumor was clearly growing in the follow up MRI. My symptoms this time around are pain around the tumor, pain in a band around my rib cage at the same height (T8), tingling in that area, occasional burning sensations in my stomach, and fatigue in my legs. Still nothing horrible, but since it is growing we are planning to take it out in March.
  • I have finally found someone with the same situation! My mom has an aggressive hemangioma at T-7 causing spinal compression. By the time they realized what was going on with her she was already showing signs of paralysis. Bowels had shut down and bladder was going. This was Feb 08. They immediatley scheduled her for the same surgery you had. During embolization she had a spinal stroke so they did an emergencey decompression from the back. She is paraylzed from t-7 down. They felt no need to remove the hemangioma at this point. she began aggressive therapy and has gotten some return of movement and bowel and bladder. They now say because of the return she has gotten and the aggressiveness of the hemangioma she willneed to have the surgery. On a tuesday they will do the embolization, on Thursday the anterior surgery to remove the Hemangioma and then 1 week later do the posterior to put in cage and rods. Who was your doctor? What city did you have the surgery? What was recovery like? Did they wait any length of time after the embolization procedure before they did the anterior surgery. It is very rare to have an hemangioma that compresses the spinal cord and it is rare to have complications from embolization. I look forward to hearing from you. I am in Louisville, KY.
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  • I'm glad to hear that there is some hope for your mother to keep her movement and bladder control. I am getting ready to go in for a posterior follow-up in about a month, and they plan to do a pre-opp embolization again. I am a little surprised that they are removing the hemangioma a week before doing the cage. For me, that was one surgery (a long one). It must have something to do with the tumor location or her physical condition. In my case, removing the hemangioma meant removing the vertbebral body - so they had to put the cage in right away. To answer your questions, I had three surgeons. I am in the Chicago area, and I had the surgery at EDITED. Dr. EDITED (neuro), Dr. EDITED (thoracic), and Dr. EDITED (interventional radiology) teamed up for the procedures. Recovery was not terrible. Despite the thoracotomy, I was able to return to work in 4 weeks and I could exercise (jog/weights) at 100% within three months. I was extremely lucky in a lot of ways - they found my tumor before I had any significant compression. Since it is growing again, I am going back to have the rest removed so that I can avoid future compression and the various complications that come with that. For me, the pain post-op was not terrible. I had a Q-pump for a few days, which I credit with significantly reducing my pain. A thoracotomy is tough because it impacts some large and useful muscles and you have to work hard on breathing exercises to keep fluid away from the lungs. My embolization was about 24 hours before the anterior surgery. The embolization material they used on me was VERY effective (brand name of Onyx). At the time it was pretty new and used only for brain tumors. It may be in more widespread use now. If her doctors have heard of it, it might be worth looking into. Feel free to PM me if you have any more questions. It is all very fresh in my memory, so there are tons of details I can pass on if you are interested. Good luck to you and your mother.

    Doctors name and contact details removed by forum Moderator (paulgla). We do not permit publishing specific doctor's or institution names and contact details. my recommendation would be to send a PM with the doctor information

  • Thanks for such a quick response. I think I will suggest that our surgeon contact yours for an opinion. The group of surgeons we are working with have only seen 1 of these in the last 10 years. Why did they not remove your tumor completely when they did the original surgery? Did they put your cage and rods in during the Anterior surgery? I too was a bit surprised that they would wait to put the cage in a week later but they said the surgery would be so long maybe 10 plus hours.
  • A good freind of mine just had a tumor removed from her thoracic - i wish i had more details for you. It had progressed to a point that her bladder was shutting down and she had ALOT of difficultly walking. It all happened so quick between diagnosis and surgery. Thankfully, she is recovering well and so far hasn't had any complications.

    I just wanted to share this with you - a success story.

    I hope all goes well with your mom
  • I don't have a great answer as to why they left some of the tumor. My tumor was pretty large, and by removing 95% of it they had to remove the body of T8. The remainder was small, closer to the spinal cord, and possibly dead from the embolization. For me, the danger was that the tumor ate so much of the bone that it was likely that it would shatter and sever the cord. I guess the immediate danger was so dramatic and the possibility of future growth was so small that they just went after the big part. When my surgeon and I discussed this a few months ago, he said that he considered a 360 surgery (posterior and anterior in one surgery), but they knew my anterior work would take a really long time. So far I have only had one surgery (about 40 days until #2). During that surgery, I had all of my hardware installed (cage, plate, screws to T7 and T9).
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