The vestibulocochlear nerve is responsible for connecting the ear to the brain, and influences both hearing and balance. A noncancerous tumor, called an acoustic neuroma, develops on the nerve and may cause vertigo and interfere with the hearing process. Although acoustic neuromas develop slowly and are noncancerous, they can grow large enough to push on the brain and create dangerous complications. Fortunately, new advances in brain tumor removal are now available for people diagnosed with acoustic neuromas.
Signs And Symptoms Of Acoustic Neuromas:
Gradual loss of hearing in one ear is usually the first sign that a tumor may be present. Often, ringing in the ear may occur, accompanied by pressure or a feeling of fullness in the ear. Drooling or facial drooping on one side of the face may occur as the tumor grows larger and pushes on facial nerves.
Eventually, Brain Tumor symptoms may include –
- Complaint of vertigo (balance disturbances)
- Facial weakness or sensations of numbness or tingling
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Confusion or disorientation
- Ear pain in one or both ears
- Visual changes
Acoustic Neuroma (Brain Tumor) Treatment:
Since acoustic neuromas grow slowly and are not malignant, immediate treatment may not be necessary for minor or absence of symptoms. Imaging techniques, such as an MRI are used to evaluate and follow the progress of the growth and placement of the tumors. However, surgery may be indicated for removal of the neuroma at some point in time.
Acoustic Neuroma (Brain Tumor) Surgery:
In the past, removal of neuromas was performed with an invasive surgical procedure that increased the risks of complications. Traditionally, several physicians were involved in the procedure, such as an ear surgeon and a neurosurgeon, and a hole was drilled into the mastoid bone (behind the ear) to access and remove the tumor. For smaller tumors, another approach was used with the hopes to save some hearing, and surgeons would make an incision behind the ear, open the skull, and shift the brain to remove the tumor.
New alternatives to the traditional surgery include a fully endoscopic approach. A burr hole is made behind the ear, the size of a dime, and a thin and flexible endoscopic instrument is inserted. The surgeon can closely monitor the facial nerve, brain involvement, and hearing to avoid cranial nerve or neurological deficits. Minimally invasive, the new endoscopic procedure does not include manipulation of the brain, and offers faster recovery rates and lowers the risks of complications dramatically. Often, patients are discharged after 48 hours post surgery.
New Alternatives To Brain Tumor Removal:
Endoscopic techniques have resulted in fewer rates of facial nerve paralysis, hearing loss, and other complications as in strokes and brain injuries. Any patients considered as good candidates for the invasive surgery of the past, will benefit greatly from the endoscopic procedure.
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