About Acoustic Neuromas
acoustic neuroma is a benign (nonmalignant) tumor that originates on the nerves
affecting hearing or balance. These nerves are located deep in the skull and
are very close to other important structures.
Because the tumor
involves these particular nerves, patients usually experience hearing loss,
ringing in the ear, or problems with balance. Larger tumors can cause facial
numbness, headaches, and the accumulation of fluid around the brain that can be
fatal if left untreated.
Diagnosis and Evaluation
When a patient is seen at UT
Southwestern for a possible acoustic neuroma, the evaluating physician will
gather information about the size and shape of the tumor, the current level of
hearing, and any previous treatments. We then confer with the multidisciplinary
acoustic neuroma team, and together we will formulate a personalized treatment
All patients with acoustic
neuromas are seen promptly. Same- and next-day appointments are often
Treatment for Acoustic Neuromas
Treating acoustic neuromas can be complex because of the anatomy and
other individual factors involved. At UT Southwestern, we use a multidisciplinary
involving a neurotologist (specialist in neurological
disorders of the ear), a neurosurgeon, and, when appropriate, a radiation
oncologist for the best possible outcomes. Treatments include observation,
radiosurgery (radiation therapy), and surgery.
Small tumors and some
medium tumors can be observed with regular MRIs. If initial scans do not show
tumor growth, an annual MRI is usually then required to ensure there’s no
further development. If initial scans show the tumor has grown, further
treatment is indicated.
Observation is not recommended for young patients or patients with large
tumors. Hearing loss is possible during the observation period and can be
sudden in some cases.
Radiosurgery is the precise
use of radiation with the goal of stopping tumor growth. Generally, the tumor
should show signs of growth via multiple MRIs before the tumor is treated with
The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and is well tolerated,
although some patients experience temporary headache and nausea.
The risks of radiosurgery include continued tumor growth, facial
numbness, hearing loss, dizziness, ringing in the ear, facial paralysis or
twitching (rare), and fluid buildup around the brain.
If the tumor needs to be removed after radiosurgery because of continued
tumor growth, complications (such as facial weakness) tend to be more common.
Also, there is a small risk of the tumor turning malignant (cancerous), estimated
to be 1 in 1,000 cases over a 30-year period.