An acoustic neuroma is a slow-growing tumor that affects the nerve responsible for hearing. This nerve, the vestibular cochlear, is located directly behind the ear and under the brain. It is a benign tumor that can have side effects including vertigo, hearing loss and ringing in the ears.
Less likely symptoms include dizziness, loss of balance and pain in the face. A physical exam or an MRI of the head may be used to diagnose acoustic neuroma. The treatment of the tumor will depend on its location and size, as well as health.
Treatment for acoustic neuroma includes ongoing observation for a slow-growing mass and, if necessary, traditional surgical removal or gamma knife surgery. Observation may often be the most appropriate approach for older patients, since evidence shows that many small tumors in this case do not grow. Treatment may not be recommended based on the person’s age of onset. Instead, periodic MRIs will allow for ongoing medical monitoring.
Traditional surgical removal for larger masses threatening the hearing nerve involve invasive techniques under anesthesia with the assistance of microsurgical instruments and an operating microscope. A surgeon will need to take great care to preserve the facial nerve in order to avoid permanent facial paralysis, while also preserving the patient’s hearing. Surgery for brain tumor treatment may result in secondary problems for the patient including speech, balance, vision, memory, or other brain-related impairment. These complications may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the exact type of surgery that is being performed and the areas that are affected.
Acoustic neuroma surgery may also be achieved with gamma knife surgery, which is actually a form of radiotherapy and not an actual surgical technique. This outpatient procedure involves precisely aiming hundreds of small beams of radiation directly at the acoustic neuroma.
The tumor receives a high enough dose of radiation to destroy the tumor cells without adversely affecting any surrounding areas of the brain. This treatment has had much success among numerous patients whose tumors then shrink over a time period. An MRI scan follow-up will be performed at six months, one year, and then annually thereafter in order to make sure that the destructive growth does not begin again. Small or medium tumors that do not involve the brainstem are more suitable for this form of radiation therapy than larger ones that could affect surrounding vital tissues.