Acoustic neuroma, also known as vestibular schwannoma, is a non-cancerous tumor that develops on the main nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. It typically grows slowly, but as it enlarges, it can cause various complications. Acoustic neuroma surgery is often recommended to treat this condition. In this article, we will explore what acoustic neuroma surgery is like and what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure.
Preparation for Surgery
Prior to the surgery, your doctor will thoroughly evaluate your condition through a series of tests, including hearing tests and imaging scans. These tests will help determine the size and location of the tumor and aid in planning the surgical approach. You may need to undergo blood tests and temporarily stop taking certain medications to reduce the risk of bleeding during the procedure.
Acoustic neuroma surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia. This means you will be completely unconscious and unaware during the procedure. The anesthesiologist will closely monitor your vital signs throughout the surgery to ensure your safety and comfort.
There are several surgical approaches to remove an acoustic neuroma, including:
1. Translabyrinthine Approach: In this approach, the surgeon gains access to the tumor by removing the mastoid bone and entering through the inner ear. This approach is commonly used for larger tumors and when hearing preservation is not a concern.
2. Retrosigmoid Approach: This approach involves making an incision behind the ear and removing a small portion of the skull bone to access the tumor. It allows for better preservation of hearing.
3. Middle Fossa Approach: This approach involves making an incision above the ear, near the temple area. It is often used for smaller tumors located in the internal auditory canal.
During the surgery, the tumor is carefully removed while preserving the surrounding nerves and structures. The duration of the surgery can vary depending on the size and complexity of the tumor. The surgical team will use specialized instruments and microscopes to ensure precision and minimize the risk of complications.
Possible Risks and Complications
While acoustic neuroma surgery is generally safe, there are potential risks and complications, including:
1. Hearing Loss: In some cases, complete or partial hearing loss may occur, particularly if the tumor is large or if hearing preservation is not possible.
2. Facial Nerve Damage: The facial nerve, responsible for controlling facial movements, is situated near the tumor. Careful manipulation is required to avoid damage to this nerve.
3. Balance Problems: As the tumor affects the vestibular nerve, which plays a role in balance, some patients may experience balance issues after surgery.
4. Infection: There is a small risk of developing an infection at the surgical site, which can be treated with antibiotics.
Recovery and Post-Operative Care
After the surgery, you will be closely monitored in the recovery room before being transferred to a regular hospital room. The length of your hospital stay will depend on your individual case, but it is typically a few days. Pain medication will be provided to manage any discomfort, and you may be advised to rest and restrict certain activities during the initial recovery period.
Regular follow-up appointments with your surgeon will be necessary to monitor your progress and address any concerns. You may need additional tests, such as imaging scans or hearing evaluations, to assess the effectiveness of the surgery and ensure there is no recurrence of the tumor.
Acoustic neuroma surgery is a complex procedure aimed at removing a non-cancerous tumor that affects the nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain. While the surgery carries some risks, it can significantly improve symptoms and prevent further complications. By understanding what to expect before, during, and after the surgery, you can approach the procedure with confidence and make informed decisions about your treatment.