At the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Neurosciences Center, diagnosis and treatment of acoustic neuromas and other skull base tumors is provided by a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including otolaryngologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, radiation oncologists, neuro-ophthalmologists, medical geneticists, and rehabilitation specialists. Treatment plans are tailored to the individual patient and involve input from relevant disciplines.
In situations where the tumor is very small when discovered and there are few or no symptoms, it may be recommended that no treatment be undertaken at the time of diagnosis, but that the tumor be carefully observed and its growth monitored.
For most patients, complete or partial eradication of the tumor is necessary. Because of the tumor's location near vital brain centers, the procedure for removing an acoustic neuroma requires the utmost precision, in both locating and excising the tumor.
Surgical Team Approach to Treat Acoustic Neuroma
An important characteristic of the Acoustic Neuroma Program is the surgical team approach. This collaborative approach utilizing the expertise of a neuro-otologist and neurosurgeon team is designed to enhance clinical outcomes.
In addition to the Gamma Knife, the surgical team has access to a LINAC-based radiosurgery system. In this system, a relocatable, mask-based, stereotactic head ring is used to direct the fractionated radiation beams. The system uses the same stereotactic localizing technique as used for Gamma Knife treatments, thereby assuring that the radiation dose tightly conforms to the shape of the targeted tumor. The fractionated LINAC-based system is typically used for tumors that are too large to be treated using Gamma Knife technology.
Medical and surgical specialists within Neurosciences Center are available to consult with patients and help them choose the most appropriate treatment option.
The most common surgical treatment option involves microsurgery, in which the tumor is surgically removed. The tumor is accessed through one of three approaches (translabyrinthine, retrosigmoid [suboccipital], or middle cranial fossa). The selection of the approach is based on tumor size and location, as well as the amount of hearing that the patient has before surgery.
Microsurgery is performed using high-powered microscopes and delicate surgical instruments. The surgery usually lasts between 4 to 12 hours and involves an experienced neurosurgeon and otolaryngologist (neuro-otologist) team who perform the surgery together. Hospital stays range from four to seven days, with an average of four to six weeks recovery time.
Radiosurgery, or Stereotactic Radiation Therapy
The second surgical option is radiosurgery, or stereotactic radiation therapy, a non-invasive procedure that uses high-dose-rate radiation to destroy the tumor. Unlike conventional radiation therapy, in which multiple doses of radiation are delivered over several weeks of treatment, radiosurgery involves only a single dose-delivered to the precise location of the tumor.