Spinal Lesions explained

What is a Spinal Lesion?

Comprehending scientific jargon from medical practitioners and doctors can be overwhelming at given times. We are often given several words with negative connotations like cancer, tumours, and lesions, without fully grasping what they mean.

Understanding most of the words being used by doctors is not usually as easy, since some are not good at breaking down diagnoses into a simpler language that the patient can understand. This write-up will give details on what a physician means when referring to ‘spinal lesion’.

What is a Spinal lesion?

In simple language, a lesion is a term given to an abnormal transformation occurring in any organ or tissue emanating from injury, or a disease. The unexpected abnormal tissue growth is caused by traumas that include serious infections like syphilis or HIV (Rubin), spinal cord injuries and accidents.

Isolation of these tissues along the spine due to abnormalities is very much possible, and damage to local supporting tissues usually worsens the entire problem.

A tumour, on the other hand, is a word that refers to any change that occurs in the body cells.

The various lesions can lead to a wide range of impairment in both sensory and motor deficits and can be either malignant or benign, depending on whether what caused them was cancer of the spine like osteochondroma and osteosarcoma.

Signs and Symptoms of a Spinal Lesion

Spinal cord lesions usually presents themselves in different forms, depending on where they are located.

There are various syndromes resulting from these abnormalities, which will affect an individual’s ability and different motor skills. Lesions are capable of adding unnecessary pressure to different spinal cord areas that result in damage and chronic impairment to a person’s daily life. The known symptoms include Horner Syndrome, paralysis of hands and legs, weakness in shoulders, pain, and loss of bicep jerk reflex.

Another very rare signifier of a lesion is palpable masses underneath the skin, which can be seen on the back or along the spinal cord.

An MRI exam is the best possible way to test for lesions and spinal cord disorders at any given time. With this type of test, spinal disk abnormalities, abscesses, tumours, and more can be shown. The test is very helpful since it will assist in determining the location and severity of the lesions, leading to identifying the best prognoses and treatment methods.

Prognosis and Treatment of Spinal Lesions

Despite a spinal lesion covering a variety of diagnosis, there are several forms of prognosis and treatment that a person will undergo.

The lesion is normally categorised depending on the location and size. For instance, lesions on the spine are called central lesions since they have an impact on the central nervous system. This growth can be serious if the patient does not seek treatment promptly. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) have been pioneers in providing treatment for some spinal lesions like Neurofibroma, Meningioma, Schwannoma, and Metastatic tumour. These spinal lesions are further discussed below:


A neurofibroma forms soft lumps beneath or on top of the skin, and it usually located centrally within the nerve. The symptoms could go from mild to absent unless it is arising within the nerves that will make you feel some form of numbness. Neurofibroma is usually non-cancerous.

Treatment of neurofibroma

The treatment is not necessary if the growth is small and less than an inch.

Monitoring – if it is located in a place where removing it could be difficult, or would end up causing problems, a physician will recommend a series of observations. It includes imaging tests and checkups to see if the tumour is growing.

Surgery to Remove the Tumour – a surgery is also a viable option to remove completely the growth causing discomfort or damaging tissues. The operation that will be performed depends on the position and size of the tumour. Surgery will aid in removing the tumour completely without causing further damage to the nerve. Upon completion of the operation, physical therapy is paramount to keep the joints and muscles active.

Clinical Trials – one may be fit to undergo experimental treatment for clinical trials.


A meningioma occurs from the membranes around the spinal cord and your brain. It is common in women and is discoverable in their old age. At first, the symptoms could be gradual depending on where in the spine or the brain it is situated. The signs and symptoms of a meningioma include:

  •    Memory loss
  •    Weakness in the arms and legs.
  •    Headaches that worsen over time.
  •    Seizures.
  •    Change in the vision where at times you will see blurred images.
  •    Loss of smell
  •    Ringing in the ears or hearing loss.

Seeing a doctor is important the moment you realise sudden changes in your memory or vision and an onset of seizures.

Risk Factors

Several studies show that the following could propagate the spread of meningioma in the body.

  •    Obesity
  •    Female hormones
  •    Radiation treatment
  •    An inherited nervous system disorder.

It is vital for meningioma to be treated in a timely manner through radiation therapy or surgery. Long-term complications associated with its treatment include-

  •    Personality changes
  •    Memory loss
  •    Seizures
  •    Difficulty in concentrating  


A schwannoma is rarely cancerous but it can cause severe impairment and loss of muscle control. In most cases, the doctor will recommend the following diagnostic tests.

  •    Nerve biopsy
  •    Electromyogram (EMG)
  •    Tumor biopsy
  •    Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  •    Nerve conduction study
  •    Computerized tomography (CT)

Treatment of schwannoma depends on its location and they include monitoring, surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, and radiation therapy.

As previously stated, patients suffering from spinal cord lesion need a perfectly-tailored treatment, and in a timely fashion. This is because everyone reacts differently to the various types of spine lesions. Despite cellular behaviour trends being present within these diagnoses, it is imperative for patients to be well-versed with their conditions and their body’s response.

If you find any unknown protrusion, lump or experience any abnormal pain on your back, it is imperative to seek for adequate medical attention immediately.