Acoustic neuroma

Vestibular schwannoma

Non-cancerous (benign) brain tumour

What is an acoustic neuroma?

Also known as vestibular schwannoma, an acoustic neuroma is a tumour that grows slowly from the covering on the vestibular nerve. This nerve runs from the inner ear to the brainstem and plays a role in maintaining your balance. The tumour is benign, which means it is not cancerous.

They are not strictly brain tumours as they grow from nerve sheath cells (schwann cells) and push against the hind brain (cerebellum) and brain stem only when they are large. A neuroma can still cause balance problems, hearing loss and facial pain and numbness, if the tumour is large enough to put pressure on your brain stem.

Need to know

  • What are the symptoms of an acoustic neuroma? icon plus

    The most common symptoms of a vestibular schawnnoma include:

    • loss of hearing in the affected ear
    • a buzzing or ringing noise (tinnitus)
    • dizziness
    • balance problems
    • facial weakness, numbness or tingling on one side of the face
  • How is an acoustic neuroma diagnosed? icon plus

    Vestibular schwannomas tend to affect adults. They are easily found on MRI scans, but because the symptoms of hearing loss and tinnitus can be caused by other conditions, such as Meniere's disease, scans and the diagnosis are sometimes delayed.

    If your consultant suspects you have a vestibular schwannoma, they may perform one or all of the following:

    • tests of hearing and balance
    • an MRI scan (or a CT if you cannot have an MRI)

    Your consultant will then discuss the results of any tests with you.

  • What treatment options are available? icon plus

    Your consultant will discuss treatment options with you depending on the position and size of your neuroma, how quickly the tumour is growing, and your general health.

    Among the main treatment options are:

    Monitoring the tumour ,with regular MRI scans if the tumour is small
    Radiation, using machines such as the Gamma Knife or CyberKnife
    Surgery under general anaesthetic, if the tumour is very large.
     

Gamma Knife Treatment for Acoustic Neuroma

Radiotherapy treatments have increased in popularity over the past 20 years. The term radiosurgery is generally considered to mean treatment after one session (fraction), but up to 5 fractions can be used in some centres and this is still regarded internationally as being radiosurgery. A single fraction is generally used to treat vestibular schwannomas. The dose of radiation given has reduced over the past 20 years, with a consequent reduction in side effects but without any noticeable reduction in the effectiveness.


Although the term ‘Gamma Knife’ implies a surgical cutting of tissue, no knives are involved, and the technique employs converging beams of radiation, delivering a high dose of radiation to the tumour, with a much lower dose to the surrounding tissue. The success of treatment is measured by growth arrest rather than tumour removal with the efficacy being at least 95% as shown by the latest published results.

What other treatment options are available?

There are different radiotherapy tools for delivering radiosurgery treatments, including Gamma Knife, CyberKnife and TrueBeam. It is considered that these treatments are probably equivalent, but Gamma Knife has the longest track record and most of the published results.

There is also a demonstrably much lower dose of radiation to the body from the Gamma Knife compared with the CyberKnife and other linear accelerators, with a correspondingly lower risk of developing a cancer elsewhere in the body from that exposure. 

Our neurosurgeons

Our consultant neurosurgeons provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

They are highly experienced in treating acoustic neuromas and any associated conditions, both in the NHS and in private healthcare.
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Acoustic neuroma in children

A specialist service for children is offered by HCA UK at a number of locations. This includes;

  • Bespoke equipment for children
  • Experienced paediatric consultants
  • Nursing support with children friendly facilities    

Our neurosurgery locations

From complex neurosurgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Request an appointment

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020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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