Acoustic Neuroma Removal
(Neurilemmoma; Vestibular Schwannoma)
An acoustic neuroma is a benign (noncancerous) tumor. It grows on the acoustic nerve, which runs from the brain to the ear. This type of tumor typically grows slowly. It may cause hearing loss, balance problems, facial numbness, and headaches.
There are three main treatment options for an acoustic neuroma:
This fact sheet focuses on microsurgical removal.
Reasons for Procedure
A successful procedure results in complete removal of the tumor with minimal additional hearing loss.
Possible Complications TOP
Side effects may be temporary or permanent. If you are planning to have this surgery, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
The following medicines may be given before the procedure:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure. These may include:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
The type of procedure will depend on your case. Factors such as hearing status and the size and location of the tumor will be considered. One of the following surgical methods will be selected:
This approach is often used when you already have significant hearing loss. The mastoid bone (part of skull) and bone in the inner ear will be removed. This allows access to the ear canal and the tumor.
An opening will be made in the skull behind the ear. This approach is used for large or small tumors. It makes it easier to see and protect the nerves during surgery.
The tumor will be removed from the upper surface of the ear canal. This approach is used when there is a good chance that hearing may be maintained.
Immediately After Procedure
You will spend at least one night in the intensive care unit for care and observation.
How Long Will It Take?
The surgery takes about 6-12 hours. The exact length will depend on the size and location of the tumor.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. You may notice pain after the procedure. Talk to your doctor about medicines to help manage the pain.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is 4-7 days. Your stay may be longer if there are complications.
At the Hospital
During recovery, you may have some of the following:
Staff will help you manage these problems.
When you return home, follow these guidelines for a safe recovery:
Full recovery typically takes 4-6 weeks. MRI scans will be done regularly over the next several years. The scans will check to see if the tumor returns.
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if you have:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Hearing Research Foundation
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
The Canadian Hearing Society
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology
Acoustic neuroma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 18, 2012. Accessed October 29, 2012.
Bennett M, Haynes DS. Surgical approaches and complications in the removal of vestibular schwannomas. Otolaryngol Clin North Am . 2007;40(3):589-609.
What is an acoustic neuroma? Acoustic Neuroma Association website. Available at: http://anausa.org/index.php/overview. Accessed October 29, 2012.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 10/29/2012