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Have you been diagnosed with a spinal meningioma? Planning the details of your spinal meningioma surgery can be more overwhelming than the surgery itself. From making sure that insurance will cover expenses to arranging for time off and organizing post-op help, there are numerous things that must be taken into consideration; preparation is key to a successful outcome.

One detail that can be easy to forget is how much spinal meningioma surgery recovery time will be needed. Every individual heals at a slightly different rate and recovery can be dependent on a great number of factors. Having knowledge of the spinal meningioma surgery recovery process in-hand helps alleviate anxieties surrounding post-operative care and recuperation.

What Is a Spinal Meningioma?

A spinal meningioma is a tumor or lesion that develops on either the inner or outer surface of the meninges, or within the structure of the meninges itself. The meninges are the membranes that surround and protect the spinal cord and brain. The majority of meningiomas are benign, meaning they do not contain any cancer tissue. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t still cause complications.

In the case of spinal meningiomas, these tumors can interfere with the function of the nerves that run through the spinal cord. When they grow large enough to press against nerves, they can cause significant neurological symptoms such as nerve pain, weakness, and numbness. In symptomatic patients that are left untreated, they can impair one’s ability to walk. In other cases, they may be an incidental finding, meaning they’re found when another health concern is being addressed. These meningiomas may not cause any symptoms at all. Surgical removal of a meningioma is based on a number factors that are assessed and determined by your medical team.

Undergoing Meningioma Surgery

If your doctor decides that surgery will be in your best interest, you will be scheduled for a procedure. Most meningiomas can be removed safely using modern techniques. In many cases the size of this surgery can be reduced using minimally invasive techniques. In such cases, a small incision is made in the skin, the muscles and other structures are moved apart, rather than cut through. This makes for a less traumatic surgery and quicker recovery.

Traditional or “open” surgery is still used in some cases, which usually requires a larger incision as more tissues are cut in the process of getting to and removing the tumor. You will be advised by your doctor on which type of surgery will be needed to remove your meningioma.

Both microsurgery and traditional surgery are carried out under general anesthesia. Depending on the type of surgery you end up having, the length of your hospital stay will vary.

Recovering from Spinal Meningioma Surgery

As mentioned before, spinal meningioma recovery time will vary from person to person. Assuming you will undergo microsurgery, your recovery may go something like this:

Day 1 to Week 1:

If you had a small tumor or lesion, you will be kept in the hospital at least overnight for observation. However, for larger or more complex tumors, you may be kept up to several days. Most surgeons will order a short period of bed rest after surgery to help wound healing. Patients with significant neurological symptoms prior to surgery may need inpatient rehab after their surgery to maximize neurological recovery.

Weeks 2 to 4:

Some patients are referred for physical or occupational therapy if the meningioma caused damage to nerves in the spinal cord. This will start in the hospital, and continue after discharge to home or a rehab facility. It’s important to follow through and attend all rehabilitation therapy sessions to ensure optimum recovery. Pain from the surgery will begin to subside during this period and most people wean off of pain medicine during this period of time. Your surgeon may order a routine postoperative MRI around this time.

Weeks 5 to 8:

At this point, you will have resumed the majority of your normal activities. If you work in a strenuous job, you may still be on a modified work plan to accommodate any limitations in place due to your meningioma surgery. Around week eight, you will return for another follow-up.

Weeks 9 and Ongoing:

Once you’ve passed the nine-week mark, you’ll be well healed. You may still be restricted from participating in strenuous activities that might re-injure your surgical site, but most restrictions will be lifted at this time. Rechecks, as determined by your doctor, will be scheduled to monitor your surgical site and healing and to ensure that regrowth is not occurring.

Factors That May Affect Recovery

Spinal surgery has become a routine procedure in the U.S., with hundreds being performed across the country on a daily basis. Nonetheless, it is helpful to know what factors might slow down recovery. These can include:

Spinal Fluid Leak

This is a particular complication of meningioma surgery to be aware of. The sheath that contains spinal fluid must be opened during meningioma surgery. In a small percentage of patients, the closure of this sheath does not heal properly, leading to a leakage of spinal fluid. This can produce symptoms, such as severe headaches that occur while standing or sitting up, or can lead to spinal fluid escaping of the incision in the skin, which must be addressed by your surgeon immediately. In these situations, sometimes an additional procedure or surgery is needed.

Compromised Immune System

If you have any conditions that compromise your immune system, be sure to let your doctor know before surgery. While most people with immune deficiencies can still undergo surgery, they may find that healing of the surgical site and incision itself is slower.

Age and Body Condition

Older individuals may take longer to heal than younger adults. Obesity or anorexia can also contribute to slower healing times.

Lack of Compliance

Patients that don’t follow a doctor’s recovery orders may find that they re-injure the surgical site, or require longer to heal. It’s important to follow the surgeon’s recommendations closely to avoid unnecessary stress and damage to the surgical site.

Recurrence

While it’s uncommon, reoccurrence of a meningioma is not completely unheard of. This makes attending all follow-ups extremely important.

Your spinal meningioma surgery recovery time will in large part depend on your general health, your willingness to comply with your surgeon’s orders and a positive attitude. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it can go a long way toward helping you plan for the most successful recovery possible.

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