Conditions We Treat - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA


Conditions We Treat

Crozer-Keystone Health System's neurosurgeons treat patients with the following conditions.


Astrocytomas are tumors that arise from astrocytes—star-shaped cells that make up the “glue-like” or supportive tissue of the brain.

Symptoms: Headaches, seizures, memory loss, and changes in behavior are the most common early symptoms of astrocytoma. Other symptoms may occur depending on the size and location of the tumor.

Learn more about brain tumors.

Brain Tumors

Brain tumors are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the skull. Benign tumors are noncancerous, and malignant tumors are cancerous. Any abnormal growth, whether benign or malignant, can place pressure on sensitive tissues and impair function. Tumors that originate in the brain are called primary tumors. Most primary tumors are caused by out-of-control growth among cells that surround and support neurons. In a small number of individuals, primary tumors may result from specific genetic disease (e.g., neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis) or from exposure to radiation or cancer-causing chemicals. The cause of most primary tumors remains a mystery. They are not contagious and, at this time, not preventable.

Symptoms: Symptoms of brain tumors include headaches, seizures, nausea and vomiting, vision or hearing problems, behavioral and cognitive problems, motor problems, and balance problems.

Learn more about brain tumors.

Cervical Spinal Stenosis (Spondylosis)

Cervical spinal stenosis (spondylosis) is a common degenerative condition of the cervical spine that is caused by age-related changes in the cushions between the vertebrae and the small joints in the back of the neck. As disc degeneration progresses, bone spurs form along the front of the spinal canal and press on the nerves, creating the following symptoms.

Symptoms: Cervical spinal stenosis can create painful sensations in the shoulders, arms, and hands. A feeling of clumsiness and a lack of balance may also accompany this condition if the spinal cord is being compressed.

Chiari Malformation

Chiari malformations (CMs) are structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. CMs may develop when the bony space is smaller than normal, causing the cerebellum and brain stem to be pushed downward into the foramen magnum and into the upper spinal canal. The resulting pressure on the cerebellum and brain stem may affect functions controlled by these areas and block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)— the clear liquid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord—to and from the brain.

Symptoms: Neck pain, balance problems, muscle weakness, numbness or other abnormal feelings in the arms or legs, dizziness, vision problems, difficulty swallowing, ringing or buzzing in the ears, hearing loss, vomiting, insomnia, depression, or headache made worse by coughing or straining. Hand coordination and fine motor skills may be affected

Compression Fractures

Compression fractures of the back are broken vertebrae. Vertabrae are the bones of the spine. Osteoporosis is the most common cause of compression fractures. Other causes include trauma to the back, tumors
that start in the bone or spread to the bone from elsewhere and tumors
that start in the spine, such as multiple myeloma.

Symptoms: Compression fractures can occur suddenly and can cause severe back pain. The pain is most commonly felt in the middle or lower spine. It can also be felt on the sides or in the front of the spine. Pain can be disabling, and take weeks to months to go away. Compression fractures due to osteoporosis may cause no symptoms at first. Back pain starts slowly and gets worse with walking, but is not felt when resting. Other symptoms may include loss of height, as much as 6 inches over time and stooped-over posture, or kyphosis.


Ependymomas are tumors in the brain and spine that arise from the ependymal cells that line the ventricles of the brain and the center of the spinal cord. They may be either slow-growing or fast-growing, depending on the type of tumor.

Symptoms: Symptoms vary, depending on the location and size of the tumor. In babies, increased head size may be one of the first symptoms. Irritability, sleeplessness, and vomiting may develop as the tumor grows. In older children and adults, nausea, vomiting, and headache are the most common symptoms.

Glioma/Glioblastoma Multiforme

Glioblastomas (GBM) are tumors that arise from astrocytes—the star-shaped cells that make up the “glue-like,” or supportive tissue of the brain. These tumors are usually highly malignant (cancerous) because the cells reproduce quickly and they are supported by a large network of blood vessels.

Symptoms: The most common symptoms are usually caused by increased pressure in the brain. These symptoms can include headache, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Depending on the location of the tumor, patients can develop a variety of other symptoms such as weakness on one side of the body, memory and/or speech difficulties, and visual changes.

Learn more about brain tumors.

Herniated Discs

Herniated discs (cervical, thoracic and lumbar) occur when the fluid filled soft discs that act like shock absorbers lose some of their fluid as people age. The outer layers of the discs may crack or tear, adding to a decrease in their ability to absorb shock. If these discs become damaged, they may bulge abnormally or rupture, and press against the spinal cord or directly against spinal nerve roots. Herniated discs may be degenerative, meaning they occur as we age, or may result from a person bending sharply or twisting, lifting a heavy object or being in a car accident.

Symptoms: Pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots can lead to numbness, pain, or loss of strength in the neck, shoulders, arms, chest, hands, and legs.


Kyphosis is a spinal disorder that may cause a deformity that is commonly referred to as humpback or hunchback. Kyphosis can affect children or adults, and is either postural, caused by poor posture, or structural, caused by problems with the bones, discs, nerves, ligaments, or muscles.

Symptoms: As the condition progresses, a smooth or more angular deformity of the cervical (upper) part of the spine may form, or in the thoracic (middle) part of the spine, may cause the person to have a more forward pitch when they stand.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower part of the spine. This narrowing causes pinching or compression of the spinal cord or nerves within the spinal canal, which can lead to pain in the back, buttocks, thighs, and legs, as well as an overall decrease in physical activity.

Symptoms: Lumbar spinal stenosis causes pain, numbness, tingling, and/or burning in one or both legs (buttocks, thighs, calves) and fatigue in the legs. The symptoms are typically worse when standing or walking and relieved by sitting down or leaning forward.


Meningiomas are benign tumors arising from the coverings of the brain and spinal cord. They represent about one-third of all primary brain tumors and occur most frequently in middle-aged women. They arise from the meninges, which are three thin layers of tissue covering the brain and spinal cord. These tumors are most often found near the top and the outer curve of the brain. Tumors may also form at the base of the skull.

Symptoms: Headache and weakness in an arm or leg are the most common symptoms. However, seizures, personality changes, and/or visual problems may also occur.

Learn more about brain tumors


Oligodendrogliomas are brain tumors that come from oligodendrocytes, one of the types of cells that make up the supportive, or glial, tissue of the brain. They can be low-grade or high-grade.

Symptoms: Oligodendrogliomas are often present for years before they are diagnosed. The most common symptoms are seizures, headaches, and personality changes. Other symptoms vary by location and size of the tumor. Tumors of the frontal lobe may cause weakness on one side of the body, personality or behavior changes and difficulty with short-term memory. Temporal lobe tumors are usually “silent,” causing few symptoms other than perhaps seizures or language problems.

Learn more about brain tumors


Sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy, is a pain that originates along the sciatic nerve, which extends from the back of the pelvis down the back of the thigh. The sciatic nerve is the primary nerve of the leg. It is also the largest nerve in the entire body. Sciatica usually heals on its own with rest and time. To help relieve symptoms, treatment may include non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, heat or cold applications, movement or surgery to repair a herniated disk. 

Symptoms: Symptoms may include lower back pain that radiates down the buttock and back of one thigh; pain that extends from the buttock down to the foot; and numbness and/or weakness in severe cases. 

Learn more about sciatica


According to the Scoliosis Research Society, scoliosis is defined as a curvature of the spine measuring 10 degrees or greater. Scoliosis is a type of spinal deformity and shouldn't be confused with poor posture.

Spinal curvature from scoliosis may occur on the right or left side of the spine, or on both sides in different sections. Both the thoracic (mid) and lumbar (lower) spine may be affected by scoliosis.

Symptoms: Common symptoms include a difference in shoulder height; the head isn't centered with the rest of the body; there is a difference in hip height or position or shoulder blade height or position; when standing straight, there is a difference in the way the arms hang beside the body; when bending forward, the sides of the back appear different in height.

Learn more about scoliosis.

Spinal Tumors

Spinal tumors may be benign or malignant. Malignant tumors are known to metastasize (spread) via arteries, veins, the lymphatic system and directly. The most common malignant tumors in the spine spread from the breast, prostate, lung, or kidney to the spinal column. Spinal tumors can be dangerous when they cause spinal canal compression, which may lead to  paralysis or when then destroy portions of the spine leading to spinal instability.

Symptoms: Many patients experience back pain as the primary symptom. Pain from a spinal tumor is often worse at rest or at night and may or may not be related to activity. Other symptoms may include weakness, numbness, slight paralysis, spinal deformity (e.g. scoliosis, kyphosis) and/or fever.


Sublaxations occur when vertebrae of the spine become displaced, resulting in loss of function.

Symptoms: Symptoms my include pain and tenderness and diminishing range of motion of affected areas