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Pediatric Spinal Cord Tumors

A growing spinal cord tumor can put pressure on your child’s growing nervous system and cause numbness, pain, weakness or loss of muscle function. Johns Hopkins can offer prompt diagnosis and expert treatment that may prevent nerve damage to your child’s spinal cord from becoming permanent. 

Pediatric Spinal Cord Tumors: Why Choose Johns Hopkins?

Neurosurgeons treating a chordoma spine tumor
  • Led by a neurosurgeon, your child’s team will include accomplished specialists with vast experience in approaching spinal cord tumor diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.
  • If surgery is indicated for your child, you can be assured of the most advanced technology and skilled pediatric neurosurgeons to put it to use.
  • Pediatric neurosurgical patients are cared for at the renowned Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, which offers comprehensive care and support for the entire family as well as the individual child.
  • Your team will assist you in understanding your child’s condition and what you can expect from treatment. Multidisciplinary experts, including orthopaedists and rehabilitation specialists can be part of your child’s ongoing treatment.
 
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Pediatric Spinal Cord Tumor Treatments

Observation

For a small spinal cord tumor that does not cause any significant signs or symptoms, monitoring the tumor without any immediate treatment, called observation, may be an option. If the tumor does not grow, the child may not need treatment.

Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for spinal cord tumors. If the tumor is benign and in a part of the spine where neurosurgeons can safely and completely remove it, surgery may be the only treatment needed.

Johns Hopkins’ neurosurgeons use state-of-the-art imagining and surgical techniques to improve the results (outcomes) of surgery for pediatric spinal cord tumors. These techniques let neurosurgeons precisely plan and perform surgery and use the safest approach possible.

Here are some examples:

  • Intraoperative imaging uses special MRI or CT scan machines in the operating room to help neurosurgeons remove brain and spinal cord tumors.
  • Image-guided stereotactic surgery is a procedure that uses advanced computers to find a brain or spinal cord tumor and create a 3-D image of it to help neurosurgeons remove the tumor safely and effectively.
  • Neuroendoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure to remove some spinal cord tumors through a small hole in the skull or through the mouth or the nose using small cameras and instruments.

After Surgery

After surgery, a team of doctors and nurses who are specially trained in pediatric critical care will assist with your child's recovery. Before your child is released from the hospital, your team will provide you with detailed instructions about what to do at home.

Radiation

Radiation therapy addresses spine tumors using X-rays and other forms of radiation (light energy) to destroy cancer cells or prevent the tumor from growing. It is also called radiotherapy.

Doctors commonly use radiation therapy after surgery for the most malignant tumors and for tumors that neurosurgeons cannot completely remove.

Radiation therapy may also be used to treat tumors in locations where surgery is not safe. However, radiation therapy is not used in very young children because it may have impact on the developing brain and affect learning, development or memory. If radiation therapy is recommended, a radiation oncologist will discuss the benefits and risks of the treatment for the child.

Two types of radiation therapy are used to treat brain and spinal cord tumors in children:

External beam radiation therapy
External beam radiation therapy directs radiation at the spinal cord tumor and nearby areas from outside the body, using a machine called a linear accelerator.

Stereotactic radiosurgery
Stereotactic radiosurgery uses narrow beams of radiation coming from different angles to precisely deliver radiation to a brain tumor while sparing the surrounding normal areas of the brain. Also called stereotactic radiotherapy, stereotactic radiosurgery delivers a higher dose of radiation than external beam radiation therapy. It can be performed in one or many doses.

Chemotherapy

If the spine tumor is malignant and rapidly growing, doctors may recommend chemotherapy to slow the tumor’s progress and address your child’s symptoms.

Pediatric Spinal Cord Tumor Specialists

The pediatric neurosurgeons at Johns Hopkins offer your child the most advanced treatments for spinal cord tumors, informed by research and delivered with a compassionate and highly individualized approach.

Neurosurgeons addressing a chordoma spinal cord tumorAlan Cohen, M.D., Director of Johns Hopkins' Pediatric Neurosurgery Center  

Neurosurgeons

Edward Ahn, M.D.
Alan R. Cohen, M.D.
Mari Groves, M.D.
Eric M. Jackson, M.D.
Shenandoah Robinson, M.D.

Advanced Pracitioners

Stephanie Berry, P.A.-C
Judy Gates, P.A.-C.
Kelly Hartnett, P.A.-C.
Heather Kerber, P.A.-C.

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