Blog | Dr. Guive Sharifi



Spinal Cysts

A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can develop in the spine as a result of degeneration and can lead to spinal stenosis or other painful, serious conditions. There are several different types of cysts that may develop within the spinal cord, although synovial cysts are most common. Synovial cysts develop within the facet joints as cartilage wears away and excess fluid is produced within the joint. The excess fluid is retained within synovium of the joint and forms a cyst. Other types of spinal cysts include arachnoid cysts, Tarlov cysts, extramedullary cysts and many more.

Symptoms of Spinal Cysts

Patients with a spinal cyst may not experience any symptoms if the cyst remains small and stable. As the cyst progresses and becomes more severe, it may cause pain in the back that travels down the legs as well, and can also lead to spinal stenosis, which may cause pain, cramping and numbness. Spinal cysts tend to cause pain in certain positions, such as while standing or remaining still for prolonged periods of time. Many patients can reduce the severity of their symptoms by frequently changing positions or by adjusting their activities to remain in a seated position more often.

Typical symptoms will usually include one or a combination of the following:

  • Lower back pain may or may not be present
  • Lumbar radiculopathy or leg pain (also called sciatica). The leg pain may occur in one or both legs, and may radiate down the back of the leg and into the foot.
  • Typically, there is minimal or no pain if the patient is seated, because in the seated position the spinal canal opens up and there is not as much pressure on the spinal nerves. When standing up straight or walking, however, the spinal canal closes down and creates more pressure on the nerves.
  • Neurological deficits, which may include numbness or tingling, or muscle weakness, in one or both legs. Weakness may include foot drop.
  • Neurogenic claudication, which usually presents as a painful, cramping feeling in the legs

Spinal Cyst Diagnosis

For a patient reporting symptoms, a doctor may recommend an X-ray to rule out other problems, but the cyst is usually found through magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. The cyst will clearly appear as bubble-like growth near a facet joint in the spine. Knowing the cyst’s size and position will help the doctor develop a treatment plan.

Spinal Cyst Treatment

Cysts that do not cause symptoms and do not seem to be growing at a rapid rate may not require any treatment other than regular monitoring of the condition. Conservative treatment may include rest, anti-inflammatory painkillers, steroid injections, and drainage. Though these approaches may temporarily relieve the symptoms, cysts may reform or refill, resulting in further discomfort. Surgery is suggested for stubborn cysts that are causing you pain and impaired movement. There are several different surgical approaches to removing the cyst and preventing a recurrence. Patients should discuss their options with their neurosurgical spine surgeon for guidance on what’s most likely to provide lasting relief.

By |Monday, October 16, 2017|Blog, News|0 Comments

Metastatic brain tumors

A brain tumor is a mass of cells in your brain that are not normal. There are two general groups of brain tumors:

Primary brain tumors start in brain tissue and tend to stay there. Most malignant brain tumours develop from the glial tissue, which supports the brain’s nerve cells. These tumours are known as gliomas.

  • These usually arise in the largest part of the brain, the cerebrum. They can be any grade. They often cause seizures or changes in behavior.
  • Oligodendrogliomas are the third most common glioma, accounting for 2-5% of all primary brain tumours and 5-18% of gliomas. They are more common in adults, particularly in people aged 40-60.
  • Ependymoma is rare. It is a type of brain tumour called glioma. They start from ependymal cells. These cells line the fluid filled areas of the brain (ventricles) and the spinal cord. Their job is to repair any damaged nerve tissue. About 2 out of 100 (2%) of brain tumours are ependymomas. Most ependymomas are diagnosed in children or young adults and can occur in any part of the brain or spinal cord. In older people they tend to occur in the lower spinal cord.

Secondary brain tumors are more common. These cancers start somewhere else in the body and travel to the brain. Lung, breast, kidney, colon, and skin cancers are among the most common cancers that can spread to the brain.

The cancer cells break away from the primary tumor and travel to the brain, usually through the bloodstream, then commonly go to the part of the brain called the cerebral hemispheres or to the cerebellum. Cancer can also spread to the spine (metastatic spine tumors).

Metastatic brain tumors are five times more common than primary brain tumors (those that originate in the brain).

Metastatic brain tumors can grow rapidly, crowding or destroying nearby brain tissue. Sometimes a patient may have multiple metastatic tumors in several different areas of the brain.

By |Saturday, October 14, 2017|Blog, News|0 Comments

What is Glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma is a type of brain cancer. It’s the most common type of malignant brain tumor among adults. And it is usually very aggressive, which means it can grow fast and spread quickly.

Where It Forms in the Brain

Glioblastoma is a type of astrocytoma, a cancer that forms from star-shaped cells in the brain called astrocytes. In adults, this cancer usually starts in the cerebrum, the largest part of your brain.

Glioblastoma tumors make their own blood supply, which helps them grow. It’s easy for them to invade normal brain tissue.

How Common Is It?

Brain cancers aren’t common. And when they do happen, about 4 out of 5 aren’t glioblastomas. Men are more likely to get them than women. And chances go up with age.


A neurologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating brain disorders) will give you a complete exam. You may get an MRI or CT scan and other tests, depending on your symptoms.


The goal of glioblastoma treatment is to slow and control tumor growth and help you live as comfortably and as well as possible. There are four treatments, and many people get more than one type:

  • Surgery is the first treatment. The surgeon tries to remove as much of the tumor as possible. In high-risk areas of the brain, it may not be possible to remove all of it.
  • Radiation is used to kill as many leftover tumor cells as possible after surgery. It can also slow the growth of tumors that can’t be removed by surgery.
  • Chemotherapy may also help. Electric field therapy uses electrical fields to target cells in the tumor while not hurting normal cells.


By |Wednesday, October 11, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

Why are brain tumor headaches worse in the morning?

Headache is the most common symptom of brain tumors. Although the brain itself feels no pain, other structures including blood vessels, the covering of the brain, and nerves in the head produce pain in response to pressure or displacement caused by a tumor. Brain tumors can occur at any age and may be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Headaches associated with brain tumors cause specific symptoms that help distinguish them from other types of headaches.

Early Morning Pain

Brain tumor-induced headaches are typically worst in the morning just after awakening. The pain may wake you up. The cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain accumulates in the head when you are lying down. This increases pressure on the brain along with increased pressure from the growing tumor, causing early morning headache pain. Headaches associated with brain tumors characteristically ease as the day wears on.

Head Pain Relieved by Vomiting

Headaches caused by a brain tumor are often accompanied by vomiting, with or without nausea. This is due to increased intracranial pressure and often occurs in the morning, although it can occur at other times during the day. Headache pain that is relieved by vomiting is a typical symptom of brain tumor.

Head Pain Worsened by Straining

Straining commonly aggravates the head pain caused by a brain tumor. Coughing, sneezing, heavy lifting, and straining to have a bowel movement are typical triggers for increased head pain. The increased pain is due to a temporary increase in intracranial pressure than accompanies straining.

Nonthrobbing Head Pain

Unlike many other forms of headache, the pain of a brain-tumor associated headache typically does not throb. This is because the pain comes from increased pressure on the brain due to the growing tumor and physical displacement of brain structures rather than by blood vessel spasms. Headaches caused by brain tumors typically present with dull, constant, aching pain. The pain is often located on the same side of the head as the tumor, although this is not always the case.


By |Saturday, October 7, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

Types of Brain tumors

Tumors that start in the brain (primary brain tumors) are not the same as tumors that start in other organs, such as the lung or breast, and then spread to the brain (metastatic or secondary brain tumors). In adults, metastatic tumors to the brain are actually more common than primary brain tumors. These tumors are not treated the same way. For example, breast or lung cancers that spread to the brain are treated differently from tumors that start in the brain.

Primary brain tumors can start in almost any type of tissue or cell in the brain or spinal cord. Some tumors have a mixture of cell types.

  • Gliomas: Gliomas are not a specific type of brain tumor. Glioma is a general term for a group of tumors that start in glial cells. A number of tumors can be considered gliomas, including glioblastoma (also known as glioblastoma multiforme), astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, and ependymomas. About 3 out of 10 of all brain tumors are gliomas. Most fast-growing brain tumors are gliomas.
  • Astrocytomas: Astrocytomas are tumors that start in glial cells called astrocytes. About 2 out of 10 brain tumors are astrocytomas. Most astrocytomas can spread widely throughout the brain and blend with the normal brain tissue, which can make them very hard to remove by surgery.
  • Oligodendrogliomas: These tumors start in brain glial cells called oligodendrocytes. These tumors tend to grow slowly, but like astrocytomas, most of them can grow into (infiltrate) nearby brain tissue and cannot be removed completely by surgery. Oligodendrogliomas sometimes spread along the CSF pathways but rarely spread outside the brain or spinal cord. As with astrocytomas, they can become more aggressive over time. Very aggressive forms of these tumors are known as anaplastic oligodendrogliomas. Only about 2% of brain tumors are oligodendrogliomas.
  • Ependymomas: These tumors arise from ependymal cells, which line the ventricles. They can range from fairly low-grade (less aggressive) tumors to higher grade ones, which are called anaplastic ependymomas. Only about 2% of brain tumors are ependymomas. Ependymomas are more likely to spread along the CSF pathways than other gliomas but do not spread outside the brain or spinal cord. Ependymomas may block the exit of CSF from the ventricles, causing the ventricles to become very large – a condition called hydrocephalus.
  • Meningiomas: Meningiomas begin in the meninges, the layers of tissue that surround the outer part of the brain and spinal cord. Meningiomas account for about 1 out of 3 primary brain and spinal cord tumors. The risk of these tumors increases with age. They occur about twice as often in women.
  • Medulloblastomas: Medulloblastomas develop from neuroectodermal cells (primitive nerve cells) in the cerebellum. They are fast-growing tumors and often spread throughout the CSF pathways, but they can be treated by surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Medulloblastomas occur much more often in children than in adults. They are part of a class of tumors called primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs) that can also start in other parts of the central nervous system.
  • Schwannomas (neurilemmomas): Schwannomas develop from Schwann cells, which surround and insulate cranial nerves and other nerves. They make up about 8% of all CNS tumors. Schwannomas are almost always benign tumors. They can also start on spinal nerves after the point where they have left the spinal cord. When this happens, they can press on the spinal cord, causing weakness, sensory loss, and bowel and bladder problems.
  • Chordomas: These rare tumors start in the bone at the base of the skull or at the lower end of the spine. Chordomas don’t start in the central nervous system, but they can injure the nearby brain or spinal cord by pressing on it.
  • Pituitary tumors: Tumors that start in the pituitary gland are almost always benign (non-cancerous). But they can still cause problems if they grow large enough to press on nearby structures or if they make too much of any kind of hormone.


By |Monday, October 2, 2017|Blog|0 Comments