If your doctor has recommended Gamma Knife radiosurgery for your acoustic neuroma, it’s important to understand what to expect following treatment. Though your recovery will be an individual experience, having an idea of what other patients typically go through can help you prepare mentally and physically for what’s to come. Read on to learn more about acoustic neuroma Gamma Knife recovery and what to expect following your procedure.
Understanding Your Acoustic Neuroma
Before discussing what to expect after treatment, it may be helpful to have a deeper understanding of your condition. An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor, which means it does not spread throughout the body or invade nearby tissues. However, that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. A benign tumor can still lead to symptoms by pressing on nearby adjacent structures like the brain, nerves and blood vessels.
Acoustic neuromas arise from the vestibulocochlear nerve, the cranial nerve responsible for hearing and balance. Cranial nerves occur in pairs, with one each on the right and left side of the body. Most patients only have a single acoustic neuroma, though some patients with a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis type 2 may have tumors on both sides.
The first sign of an acoustic neuroma is often hearing loss or ringing in one ear. Patients may also experience a sense of fullness within the ear, vertigo, difficulty with balance or walking and facial numbness or weakness. These symptoms are related to the tumor’s effect on the vestibulocochlear nerve and/or pressure it puts on other structures, like the facial nerve.
Some patients never experience symptoms, but it is still important to follow up with your doctor to monitor for tumor growth or changes. The earlier these changes are detected, the sooner treatment can begin, helping mitigate any possible damage.
How Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Treats Acoustic Neuroma
Not all acoustic neuromas require treatment. However, if your acoustic neuroma is or might become symptomatic, your doctor may recommend Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Though it sounds like a surgical procedure, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiosurgery. There are no scalpels or incisions, and you don’t even have to stay overnight in the hospital.
During Gamma Knife radiosurgery, 192 individual beams of low-dose radiation are focused directly on your acoustic neuroma to shrink your tumor. The area of interest can be treated with a precision of 0.15 mm, which means healthy surrounding tissues are spared. Since Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a minimally invasive procedure, there are no surgical risks, making it a potential treatment option for patients who cannot undergo surgery.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery has been used to successfully treat acoustic neuromas either alone or in conjunction with other therapies. Studies have shown that hearing and nerve function are often significantly improved after treatment, making Gamma Knife radiosurgery an effective, minimally invasive option for many patients. Some patients may require a second session of Gamma Knife radiosurgery, particularly if an acoustic neuroma is very large. However, many patients are successfully treated with just a single session.
Acoustic Neuroma Gamma Knife Recovery
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an outpatient procedure, so there is no hospital stay and most patients are home within a few hours of completing treatment. And because Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a minimally invasive procedure, there are no stitches, no painful incision site, and no activity restrictions other than taking it easy for a day or two. Most patients are back to work and normal activities within 1-2 days of treatment.
It’s important to realize that some patients do experience side effects after Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Your doctor will discuss these with you in more detail and what you can expect in your particular case. These side effects may occur immediately or after a period of time following treatment but are typically mild and transient.
Immediately following your procedure, you may feel tired, and this fatigue might last a day or so. Some patients also experience headaches and/or nausea for 1-2 days after treatment. However, these are generally mild and your doctor can prescribe medication to make you more comfortable, if necessary. Another side effect that may occur is delayed swelling of the brain. This may happen approximately six months after treatment and can be managed with medications, should it occur.
Your Recovery After Gamma Knife Radiosurger
Now that you have a general understanding of acoustic neuroma Gamma Knife recovery, continue the discussion with your personal doctor. He or she will be able to explain what you can expect, including side effects and improvement of your symptoms. Recovery is generally brief and mild, but you may want to take an extra day or two off work just to give your mind and body a chance to recuperate.
As you move forward through the treatment process, continue to educate yourself about your condition and your procedure. Education is a powerful way to develop confidence and peace of mind. Undergoing any medical procedure can be stressful. Maintaining open communication with your doctor and discussing what you’re learning will help you rest easy, knowing you’re on the right path towards recovery.