When an acoustic neuroma is caught early, the likelihood that an experienced surgeon can remove it while preserving both hearing and the delicate facial nerve is quite good. At the University of Michigan Health System, our Otology/Neurotology department has outstanding outcomes when treating acoustic neuromas and our multidisciplinary team of highly skilled physicians tailors your treatment so it’s best for you.
An acoustic neuroma (also called a vestibular schwannoma) is a benign tumor, usually slow growing, that originates on the 8th cranial nerve, leading from the brain to the inner ear. The first symptoms include hearing loss and balance problems.
Our approach to management of an acoustic neuroma is to determine what’s best for each individual patient. Our multidisciplinary team, which includes the Department of Neurosurgery, evaluates the patient thoroughly, with a complete history, a physical examination, plus hearing and balance tests. Imaging studies include an MRI of the head and a CT scan if surgery is being considered. We take into consideration health issues, the size of the tumor and its symptoms, and then discuss all the treatment options with the patient.
Treatment options include:
- Observation – may be an option for tumors with no accompanying symptoms and for patients who are too ill or elderly for surgery
- Stereotactic radiosurgery – a radiation treatment that, in select cases, can control tumors using precisely targeted, x-ray beams
- Microsurgical excision – the most common treatment for an acoustic neuroma, which usually removes the tumor entirely
Our group has achieved hearing preservation rates in small tumors that are among the world’s best, while maintaining high rates of facial nerve function. The middle fossa approach allows the surgeons to access the area of the tumor and preserve all the vital structures around the tumor, including the balance system, cochlea and facial nerve.
A published study from the University of Michigan reported high rates of success at preserving the patients’ hearing when the middle fossa approach was used to remove smaller tumors. Of the people in the study who had useful hearing before the surgery, over three-quarters retained a level of useful hearing after their tumors were removed. The results presented in this study represent the highest hearing preservation rates published to date.