What is an acoustic neuroma?
An acoustic neuroma, also known as a vestibular schwannoma, is a non-cancerous tumor that develops along the auditory nerve, which connects the ear to the brain. As the tumor grows, it presses against the hearing and balance nerves.
Acoustic neuromas generally affect only one ear. Bilateral acoustic neuromas, those which affect both ears, can occur in a hereditary disorder called neurofibromatosis type II and account for approximately five percent of cases.
What are the symptoms of acoustic neuroma?
The signs and symptoms of acoustic neuroma come on slowly because the tumor itself is usually slow growing. People generally first notice symptoms between the ages of 30 and 60. Symptoms of acoustic neuroma may include:
- Difficulties with speech and swallowing
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Hearing loss
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
If the tumor grows large, it can cause facial numbness, weakness, or even paralysis, on the side of the face with the tumor. Left untreated, it may eventually press against the brainstem and cause cerebrospinal fluid buildup in the brain, a dangerous condition called hydrocephalus.
Gamma Knife® treatment for acoustic neuroma
Gamma Knife is a minimally invasive treatment with the precision of surgery. Gamma Knife uses highly targeted, high-dose radiation to destroy the DNA of tumor cells so they can no longer reproduce. Surrounding tissue remains unharmed, and patients remain awake for the procedure and go home the same day – no hospital stay is required.
What are the side effects of Gamma Knife treatment for acoustic neuroma?
Side effects such as facial weakness and numbness are uncommon, under one percent. The useful hearing preservation rate is the highest achieved by all technologies: on average 71 percent of patients have useful hearing preserved.
How long is the recovery for Gamma Knife treatment of acoustic neuroma?
The full healing process takes three to four months.
Will I recover hearing I have lost due to acoustic neuroma?
You should expect treatment to preserve the hearing you still have, but not hearing improvement. No part of hearing loss will be restored.
Who is a good candidate for Gamma Knife treatment for acoustic neuroma?
Your primary care doctor, ENT or neurologist, and team at South Sound Gamma Knife will decide if you are a good candidate for treatment. For many patients, Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery may be a preferred option to stop the growth of the tumor. Gamma Knife can also be used as a follow-up to traditional surgical removal if it is not possible to remove the tumor completely without causing further damage. Gamma Knife may also be used to treat regrowth after surgery, as regrowth occurs in about eight percent to 10 percent of cases.
What are the risks of Gamma Knife treatment for acoustic neuroma?
Potential risks include post-treatment edema (swelling), which can result in temporary hearing loss, cranial nerve damage (numbness) and fatigue.
Is Gamma Knife an effective treatment for acoustic neuroma?
Of all available technologies, Gamma Knife has the highest effectiveness rate for preserving hearing. About 71 percent of patients have useful hearing preserved. That’s why today nearly half of all newly diagnosed acoustic neuroma patients have their tumors treated with Gamma Knife.