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When cancer spreads to the spine, the resulting tumors can cause painful nerve compression. To treat them, physicians are turning up the heat.
Tumors in the spinal cord can press on nerves, causing pain, tingling and numbness. Easing that pressure is an important part of treating spinal cancer.
“Traditional treatments for spine tumors can include radiation and a procedure called kyphoplasty, in which we insert a balloon into the compressed area, inflate it and inject cement to fill the space to prevent painful spinal column compression and collapse,” said Harry Lockstadt, MD, board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Bluegrass Orthopaedics & Hand Care at Saint Joseph East, part of KentuckyOne Health. “I’m always concerned that, during the course of performing kyphoplasty, it is possible tumor cells might be seated into the bloodstream and spread to another part of the body.”
At Saint Joseph East, a minimally invasive, outpatient treatment called OsteoCool™ RF (radiofrequency) Ablation reduces the risk of cancer cells spreading while providing many patients with almost instant relief from pain.
Using OsteoCool, a surgeon can ablate the spinal tumor and shore up the spine at the same time with a subsequent kyphoplasty. The procedure typically takes an hour or less.
After using X-ray guidance to pinpoint the tumor’s location, the surgeon makes one or two small incisions in the patient’s back. Once access instruments inserted through those holes reach the site of the tumor, the surgeon places an RF device at the tumor site using a small tube. The tip of the device uses intense, highly focused RF heat to destroy the tumor. Once the tumor portion has been ablated, stabilization is then performed using kyphoplasty.
“OsteoCool has low complication and infection rates with minimal risk of bleeding,” Dr. Lockstadt said. “Unlike radiation, it’s a one-time treatment, and it doesn’t affect surrounding, healthy areas. Results are predictable: Patients almost always wake up with their back pain gone. They’re free to go home and continue cancer treatment. In the three years we’ve been offering OsteoCool at Saint Joseph East, I’ve been very impressed with it.”
If you have been diagnosed with cancer and experience new back or neck pain, as well as weakness or loss of sensation below the painful area, tell your medical team about it immediately. The symptoms could be signs of cancer that has spread to the spine.
This article originally appeared in the 2017 Fall edition of One Health Magazine. Sign up for your free subscription.