Vestibular schwannoma, also known as acoustic neuroma is a benign brain tumor that can grow silently for years, often with very subtle symptoms. Sometimes surgery is the best treatment. There are now a series of high-tech tests doctors use to help map out a successful surgery.
Cynthia Sucher never imagined she’d be here, getting strapped into a safety harness. Physical therapists are measuring her reaction to being purposely moved off-kilter.
Cynthia explained, “Maybe ten years ago or more I had an episode of vertigo where things were starting to swim. My first thought was I have a brain tumor. Little did I know that I did.”
But that diagnosis didn’t come for almost a decade. For years, Cynthia attributed her minor symptoms to normal aging.
“I’m getting older and I’m not as steady. Getting older and I don’t hear as well. Getting older and I have dry eye,” she said.
But when her facial muscles started to freeze a few months ago, Cynthia sought out specialists. Neurosurgeon Ravi Gandhi, MD, at Florida Hospital is an expert in skull-based tumors.
“Vestibular schwannomas grow behind the ear just inside the skull,” Dr. Gandhi explained.
These tumors are almost always benign, but they can wrap around the nerves controlling balance, hearing and facial muscles.
“We’re taking a tumor and peeling it off the nerves of the brain stem. That can make it very difficult,” Dr. Gandhi continued.
This series of tests measures the impact of the tumor on nerves and muscles so surgeons can pre-plan how they’ll approach the tumor.
Surgery to remove the tumor is usually conducted by two specialists: a neurosurgeon and a neurotologist, an ear specialist. The procedure can last twelve to fourteen hours, and recovery can take six weeks or more.