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Finding a Hospital for Acoustic Neuroma Surgery

Receiving a diagnosis of acoustic neuroma can lead to many questions, but the most important one is: Where should I go to get the best care? Because most cases of acoustic neuroma progress slowly, the symptoms are often managed by a neurologist or ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.  Often, your doctor will let you know when it is time to consider acoustic neuroma surgery.

As a New Jersey resident, you should look for a hospital in your area that can offer you the best treatment options for your acoustic neuroma (sometimes also called vestibular schwannoma). There are two main treatment options for an acoustic neuroma: traditional, open brain surgery and Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.  Your neurosurgeon will evaluate your case and make a recommendation for the preferred treatment method based on a variety of things including your age, overall health, MRI findings, hearing evaluation and the size of the tumor.

Generally speaking, having a tumor larger than 2.2 centimeters makes one a candidate for microsurgery. Small and medium-sized tumors can be treated effectively with Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.

Goals and Benefits of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Acoustic Neuroma

The goals for benign acoustic neuroma treatment are to:

  • Prevent future growth of the tumor
  • Minimize additional hearing loss, if possible
  • Improve balance issues and vertigo
  • Avoid any and all unnecessary risk or complications from treatment

Unfortunately, at this time, neither microsurgery nor Gamma Knife treatment can restore hearing loss or completely eliminate tinnitus. But preventing these symptoms from getting worse is a good reason to pursue treatment. For some patients, microsurgery is used first and Gamma Knife can be used as a follow up—for instance if a small piece of the tumor was in an area too delicate to remove surgically.

If your doctor says you are a candidate for Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, there are several benefits for that procedure when compared to microsurgery. Gamma Knife is noninvasive and does not require anesthesia. You will also be able to go home immediately after treatment, so no hospital stay is required.  As far as “downtime” after treatment is concerned, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery often requires no downtime at all.  Traditional open surgery often requires several weeks to months of restricted activity after surgery.

Because microsurgery is an invasive treatment, the risks involved include:

  • Permanent hearing loss in the affected ear
  • Damage to the facial nerve, which could lead to facial paralysis
  • Tinnitus
  • Possibility of infection
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leaks

The risks with Gamma Knife Radiosurgery are generally less severe, and the side effects are mild—usually headache or nausea, if anything.  The one thing Gamma Knife Radiosurgery does not afford is removal of the acoustic neuroma. For larger tumors causing significant pressure on nearby structures like the brainstem, traditional surgery offers the benefit of relieving that pressure.

Your Personal Recovery from Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Acoustic Neuroma

Shortly after Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for your acoustic neuroma, you may return to your normal activities with medication, if needed, to help with headache or nausea.

It may be weeks or months before you notice improvement in your original symptoms. The Gamma Knife kills the tumor but does not shrink it, so as the tumor dies over weeks and months, it may release breakdown products. Your immune system will respond to this and might cause some inflammation. This might cause a temporary worsening of pre-existing symptoms (i.e., tinnitus), but an oral steroid can relieve those symptoms should they occur.  

Why Choose the Valley Gamma Knife Center

The Valley Gamma Knife Center offers top-of-the-line equipment (the Leksell Gamma Knife Icon), which delivers 192 beams of radiation with pinpoint accuracy. The Center also has surgical capabilities, so the neurosurgeons can design the best treatment option on an individualized basis. In addition to top neurosurgical and radiosurgery specialists, the Gamma Knife Center offers a multidisciplinary team of physicians, as well as nurse navigators to ensure all aspects of your care are focused on your best recovery.

Get Your Questions Answered, By a Real Person.

Our Patient Liaison is here to help you understand your next step. After discussing your specific case, she can help you navigate your medical records, answer insurance questions, and connect you with one of our nurses, at no charge to you.

Patient liaisons explain Gamma Knife surgery cost, outcomes, etc.