Topics: Spinal Cord Injury

What the Doctor Really Means By a "Spinal Lesion"



It can be overwhelming at the best of times to understand and comprehend scientific jargon from doctors and other medical professionals. Some words are ingrained into us with certain negative connotations, such as tumours, lesions, cancers. These are generally known in modern culture, even if the amount known about them is minimal.

Knowing what a doctor means can be a difficult task, and some doctors may be better than others at breaking diagnoses down into bite size, and most importantly, understandable chunks. This article will look into what doctors mean by ‘spinal lesions’.

What is a spinal lesion?

Spinal Lesion

Put simply, a lesion is the name given to an abnormal change which occurs to any tissue or organ, caused by a disease or injury. The abnormal growths of tissue can occur from some form of trauma, including an accident, spinal cord injury, or serious infections, such as syphilis or HIV (Rubin). These tissue abnormalities along the spine can be isolated, or if local supporting tissues are in fact also damaged. In many cases, any change to cells can be referred to as tumours.

These many kinds of lesions can cause a wide array of dysfunctions in both motor and sensory deficits, and can be either benign or malignant depending on whether or not they’re caused by cancer of the spine, such as osteosarcoma and osteochondroma.

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What are the signs and symptoms of a spinal lesion?

Assessing Spinal Lesion will determine the best way to treat a patient

Spinal cord lesions can present in various ways, depending upon the location of the lesion itself. There are different syndromes resulting from these lesions that will affect different motor skills and abilities of an individual. Lesions can add pressure to areas of the spine which cause chronic pain and impairment to an individual’s daily life.

Some signs include pain, weakness in shoulders and wrists, loss of bicep jerk reflex, Horner Syndrome, and paralysis of hands and legs. These are to name just a few, and as previously noted, these will depend upon location of lesion. Other physical signifiers of spinal lesions can be palpable masses under the skin which appear along the spinal cord on the back.

The most accurate way to test for spinal cord disorders and lesions is an MRI exam, which can show tumors, spinal disk abnormalities, abscesses, and more. This can help determine the severity and location of lesions, which will then help to identify any potential treatments and prognoses.

Treatment and prognosis

As a ‘spinal lesion’ can cover so many kinds of diagnosis, there are varying forms of treatment and different prognoses an individual can have. A lesion is categorized dependent upon its size and location. For example, lesions of the spine are referred to as central lesions because of their impact on the central nervous system.

Treatment is key for spinal tumours, as any damage it causes can be made more severe or indeed, permanent, if treatment is not sought soon enough. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) have pioneered treatment for a variety of spinal lesions, including Meningioma, Neurofibroma, Metastatic tumor and Schwannoma.

As previously discussed, patients with these kinds of conditions require the most tailored treatment as every body can react differently to spinal lesions. Although there are trends of cellular behaviour within these diagnoses, it is paramount patients learn all they can about their condition and how their body is working alongside it.

If you have been diagnosed recently with a form of spinal lesion, ensure you get as much information as you can on your condition. Although initially overwhelming, with the the right care treatment alongside self-education, you will be in a better position to heal, not to mention feel empowered through your treatment.

If you experience any abnormal pain, or find any new lumps or protrusions on your back, seek medical attention immediately.



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Bianca Chadda

Written by Bianca Chadda

By day Bianca Chadda works as a healthcare assistant for a mental health clinic but she also has a passion for writing. With a BA in Human Geography, and experience of both print and online editorial, she has extensive knowledge of academic research for editorial purposes that she enjoys applying to the healthcare industry.

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