Hearing that you have cancer or a tumor is terrifying enough. Hearing that the tumor is on your spine and that your options may result in paralysis or worse, is even more terrifying. However, your neurosurgeon has got this. This doctor has spent years learning and training for moments like this. Your surgeon will use a series of surgical spine instruments to very carefully extract as much of, if not all of, the tumor on your spine. The tumor has to be removed, or your odds for being able to move, walk, jump, dance, etc., may be next to slim. If you are concerned about the instruments and would like to know more about them, the following ones may be used for your particular surgery.
Retractors help move ribs and gently push soft tissues aside so that your surgeon can see what he/she is looking for. Some retractors require nurses to hold the retractors open, while other retractors have locking mechanisms that hold the retractors in the open position while your surgeon continues to look for the tumor. Do not worry; you will not feel any of this under general anesthesia.
Probes are exactly as they sound; they are surgical instruments that probe deeper past the fascia and the skin into the body. Your surgeon will use these probes to delicately push to the side the nerves and the tendons around your spine. The probes will not poke, stretch, or harm these tissues. They just help move the most delicate parts of your spine to the side so that the surgeon can get to the tumor hiding under, behind, and/or beneath the tissues. A probe can also help the surgeon to "feel" the tumor in order to detect if it is hard, soft, spongy, granular, and/or too attached to the spine.
Dissectors and Curettes
Once your surgeon has reached the tumor, he/she uses a knife, or curette to gently cut the tumor free and gently scrape the few remaining cells of the tumor from your spine. If there are any tiny areas of damage, the surgeon will do what is possible to repair them. With the tumor outside of the body now, the surgeon will use a dissector to "sample" the tumor and make sure it is not cancerous, but only a benign growth. This is done by dissecting the tumor to see what is inside it, and then examining bits of it under a microscope. If there is nothing else to worry about, your surgeon stitches up your back.