Did you know that approximately 20 million Americans suffer from chronic tinnitus?
Out of those 20 million, 2 million have extreme cases that substantially impact their quality of life. Chronic tinnitus is both severely uncomfortable and disheartening.
If you suffer from chronic tinnitus, you already know that the ringing and buzzing in your ears can be a debilitating condition. Nobody wants to listen to a noise that never goes away.
Furthermore, there could be a greater cause for concern behind your condition. A hearing test may reveal that acoustic neuroma is causing this bothersome issue.
If this sounds like you, acoustic neuroma treatment might be exactly what you need to get back some peace of mind.
There are many different treatment options available to you. One of these options is Gamma Knife radiosurgery. It is one of the most non-invasive, focused, and painless treatments for acoustic neuromas.
This article discusses what acoustic neuromas are, how they cause hearing loss, and why Gamma Knife is an effective, non-invasive solution for acoustic neuroma.
What Is An Acoustic Neuroma?
An acoustic neuroma (also known as vestibular schwannoma) is a benign tumor that forms on the
cranial nerves for hearing and balance. It is important to note that these kinds of small tumors are not cancerous, but can be dangerous if ignored.
That’s because if it is left untreated, this type of tumor can cause hearing problems and, potentially, balance problems and brainstem issues.
An acoustic neuroma occurs when the vestibulocochlear nerve overproduces Schwann cells. Schwann cells are cells that protect the cochlear and vestibular nerves. These nerves control hearing and balance.
The cause of acoustic neuromas is not known, but it’s important to see a doctor if you experience issues such as hearing problems that last more than three months or episodes where your hearing goes away. Ringing in one or both ears (tinnitus), pain and/or stiffness in your neck, and headaches with no other cause are also reasons to see a doctor.
Sometimes the tumor is often small enough that there are no noticeable signs. There could be no symptoms of a problem until the patient either gets an MRI scan or begins to exhibit the above symptoms later on.
With an acoustic neuroma, the tumor begins growing slowly inside the nerves, unlike most traditional tumors that spread through organs. This means surgery to remove them may also differ depending on what type of operation the doctor thinks would work best to preserve the patient’s quality of life.
However, medical education and research say that acoustic neuromas can be treated without invasive surgery. This treatment happens through procedures like Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery.
Non-Invasive Procedures for Acoustic Neuroma Treatment
Invasive procedures, like middle fossa surgery, require a surgeon to make an incision that exposes the nerve. Fortunately, there are also non-invasive options.
We’ll discuss some of the available options for non-invasive treatment for acoustic neuroma and explain why Gamma Knife radiosurgery might be the best option for you.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)
The goal of stereotactic radiosurgery is to reduce or kill the tumor with as little impact on healthy tissue as possible.
The neurosurgeon will first map out where the acoustic neuroma is by using CT or MRI imaging. Then they will determine how much radiation dose needs to be given for the tumor to stop growing.
To treat acoustic neuroma, SRS delivers a high dose of radiation in one session.
Proton Beam Therapy
This type of treatment helps treat tumors. It’s different because it uses protons rather than ionizing radiation.
The specialist will put the patient into position, and a head frame is placed around their head. This adjusts for any changes made during the course of therapy. The head frame also blocks out healthy tissue nearby so that only tumor cells are exposed to the proton beam.
During this time, the patient usually receives anesthesia or sedatives to make the treatment more comfortable. Soon after, the machine will emit beams that target the acoustic neuroma.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery uses high-energy beams to shrink skull base tumors. It is a form of stereotactic radiosurgery.
Because Gamma Knife is so focused, treatment does not affect as much of the surrounding tissue as traditional radiation therapy, resulting in fewer side effects.
Additionally, because it is non-invasive, Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery does not carry any of the risks associated with surgery, has less post-procedural pain and a minimal recovery time.
Side Effects of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma Knife patients go home on the same day as treatment. While they may experience mild side effects, these do not last for longer than a few days.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery avoids the potential side effects often associated with traditional surgery. These are side effects like facial weakness, infection, incision/surgical site pain and swelling, etc.
Any side effects from Gamma Knife radiosurgery tend to be mild compared to those of their surgical counterparts. These side effects can include nausea, skin irritation, headache, and temporary fatigue.
Overall, it is rare for patients to experience serious or long-lived side effects after Gamma Knife treatment. The risk factors are few.
Recovery from Gamma Knife is shorter and less uncomfortable than traditional surgery. The recovery period does not require a hospital stay, and many patients return to school or work within two or three days.
Typical surgical procedures require eating restrictions during the recovery period. During the Gamma Knife recovery period, there are no eating restrictions.
During recovery, patients might experience some mild fatigue. That’s normal. Patients should drink lots of fluids and get rest in the two or three days following the procedure.
Because the radiation is delivered in a highly focused way, sparing healthy surrounding tissues, there tends to be less nausea, headache, or other post-procedure side effects.
Over the next few months, patients should monitor their symptoms to ensure that there are no unusual side effects.
Gamma Knife Treatment for You
Now that you understand the basics of acoustic neuroma treatment, you are well on your way to deciding with your doctor which option may be best for you.
If you’re interested in non-invasive solutions, get in touch with us. We would love to talk about how Valley’s Gamma Knife Center has helped many patients diagnosed with acoustic neuroma.