Vertebral tumor ablation is a safe and effective pain management treatment for patients suffering pain resulting from spinal tumors. This procedure can treat small, painful benign tumors and spinal metastases.

A vertebral tumor is a type of spinal tumor affecting the bones of the spine (vertebrae). The tumor can cause pain if it presses against the spinal cord or nearby nerves. Some tumors can grow within the vertebrae, causing them to fracture or create spinal instability.

Vertebral tumors produce symptoms that resemble more common pain conditions. For this reason, the pain doctors at Novus Spine & Pain always consider a patient’s complete medical history and perform comprehensive exams.

In This Article:

What Is Vertebral Tumor Ablation?

Vertebral tumor ablation is a minimally invasive surgical method of treating solid cancers. The procedure uses a needlelike probe to destroy the tumor by either “burning” or “freezing” it. There is also a non-invasive procedure using focused ultrasound to destroy the tumor.

“Burning” refers to increasing the temperature of the tumor to such a level that cancer cells die. Studies have found that a temperature of 113 degrees Fahrenheit is sufficient to destroy the tumor. It is also possible to use extreme cold to “freeze” (cryoablation) the tumor. The freezing agent in the probe is at a temperature of -40 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the tumor.

What Causes Vertebral Tumors

There are different types of bone cancers. One begins in the bones, such as osteosarcoma, when cells in the bone begin to grow out of control. However, most vertebral tumors result from cancer that has spread to the spinal column from elsewhere in the body (metastatic tumors). Cancer that has metastasized to the spine can destroy existing bone, with the tumor growing in place of new bone. The tumors can spread through the lymph system, bloodstream, or nearby tissue.

When cancer penetrates the spine’s bones, its growth causes the spine to become unstable. The tumor or bone can press against the spinal cord or other nerves to cause pain. Whether cancerous or not, a vertebral tumor can cause severe pain, be life-threatening, and possibly cause permanent disability.

Cancers that can often lead to spinal tumors include:

  • Breast.
  • Prostate.
  • Colon.
  • Lung.
  • Kidney.
  • Thyroid.
  • Melanoma (skin).
  • Renal (kidney).
  • Lymphomas.

Types of Vertebral Tumor Ablation

There are four types of vertebral tumor ablation therapies; three are minimally invasive, and one is non-invasive.

The minimally invasive vertebral tumor ablation procedures are:

  • Radiofrequency ablation. An advanced, minimally invasive procedure that uses a heat-generating, electrode-tipped catheter inserted into the tumor.
  • Microwave ablation. Similar to radiofrequency ablation, microwaves heat the tissue around needles inserted into the tumor to destroy it.
  • Cryoablation. As in radiofrequency ablation, a thin, wand-like needle (cryoprobe) is inserted directly into a cancerous tumor to freeze and destroy it.

The non-invasive procedure is magnetic resonance-guided ultrasound (MR-Guided) ablation. This method focuses ultrasound energy through the skin to destroy the tumor without placing a probe into the tumor. MR imaging allows precise tumor targeting and confirmation of the tumor’s destruction.

Radiofrequency, microwave, cryoablation, and MR-guided focused ultrasound ablations are most effective for small, localized cancer. The procedures can be repeated if necessary and are safe to use with other treatment options.

How Does Vertebral Tumor Ablation Work?

Vertebral tumor ablation, when done using methods like radiofrequency ablation, cryoablation, or microwave ablation, involves a tiny incision in the skin, which allows for the insertion of a flexible probe directly into the tumor. The physician uses a special x-ray to help position the probe into the tumor. Once the probe is in position, the probe destroys the tumor without damaging surrounding healthy tissue or bone.

Once the ablation is complete, the doctor injects a medical-grade cement (kyphoplasty) into the area where the tumor was removed. The cement helps stabilize the surrounding weakened bone and typically prevents compression fractures around the tumor space.

The patient can return to normal activities after the procedure more quickly than after invasive surgeries. The pain relief allows cancer patients to continue chemotherapy or radiation treatment for their primary cancer.

The effectiveness of vertebral tumor ablation depends on the size of the tumor and the probe’s ability to access the tumor. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial because tumors larger than 3 cm are more challenging to treat and destroy.

While the recovery time for any minimally invasive procedure can be faster than traditional open surgeries, the exact recovery time and how quickly a patient can return to normal activities will vary based on the individual’s overall health and circumstances. Always consult with healthcare professionals for accurate and detailed information about any medical procedure and individual patient care.

Who Can Benefit from Vertebral Tumor Ablation?

Vertebral tumor ablation can benefit patients with intense pain often associated with metastatic spinal tumors. The procedure reduces and often eliminates the need for opioid-based pain medication and can help improve the patient’s quality of life. The benefits of the procedure include:

  • It is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure.
  • It can provide rapid back pain relief.
  • It is compatible with the patient’s ongoing cancer treatment.
  • It is an option for those who have reached their cumulative radiation dose limit.

It is also a potential treatment option for patients with tumors that are radiation therapy-resistant.

Novus Spine & Pain Center

Novus Spine & Pain Center is in Lakeland, Florida, and treats patients with chronic pain with numerous therapies, including vertebral tumor ablation. By using a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies, we work together with patients to restore function and regain an active lifestyle, while minimizing the need for opiates.

For your convenience, you may schedule an appointment online, request a call back, or call our office at 863-583-4445.

Vertebral Tumor Ablation Resources

Radiofrequency Ablation (Johns Hopkins)
Tumor Ablation Therapies – Microwave Ablation (Stanford Medicine)
Primary Tumors in the Spinal Cord (University of Chicago Medicine)
Spinal Tumor Radiofrequency Ablation (University of Kansas Cancer Center)
Spinal Tumor Ablation: Indications, Techniques, and Clinical Management (PubMed)
Vertebral Metastases: Minimally Invasive Percutaneous Thermal Ablation (PubMed)
A spine, a tumor, and a new procedure for the Inland Empire (Loma Linda University)
Tumor Ablation Procedure Information (Cedars Sinai)
Radiofrequency Ablation System Treats Spinal Tumors (HospiMedica)
Spine Tumor Ablation (University of Miami Health System)
Common Cancers That Metastasize to the Bones (WebMD)