Merck Manual

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Vestibular Schwannoma

(Acoustic Neuroma; Acoustic Neurinoma; Eighth Nerve Tumor)


Lawrence R. Lustig

, MD, Columbia University Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital

Last full review/revision Jun 2021| Content last modified Jun 2021
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A vestibular schwannoma (also known as an acoustic neuroma) is a noncancerous (benign) tumor that originates in the cells that wrap around the vestibular nerve (Schwann cells).

These tumors arise from the vestibular (balance) nerve, which is one branch of the vestibulocochlear nerve (8th cranial nerve Overview of the Cranial Nerves Twelve pairs of nerves—the cranial nerves—lead directly from the brain to various parts of the head, neck, and trunk. Some of the cranial nerves are involved in the special senses (such as seeing... read more ). The other branch, the cochlear (auditory) nerve, carries sound signals to the brain. Early symptoms as the tumor grows and presses on the auditory nerve include slowly progressing hearing loss in one ear (hence the historical name acoustic neuroma).

Symptoms of Vestibular Schwannoma

Early symptoms of vestibular schwannoma include

If the tumor grows larger and compresses other parts of the brain, such as the facial nerve (7th cranial nerve) or the trigeminal nerve (5th cranial nerve), weakness (facial droop) or pain and numbness of the face may result.

Diagnosis of Vestibular Schwannoma

Treatment of Vestibular Schwannoma

  • Sometimes surgery or radiation therapy

Tumors that are small and not growing or causing symptoms do not require treatment. Tumors that begin growing or cause symptoms are removed with surgery or controlled using radiation therapy Radiation Therapy for Cancer Radiation is a form of intense energy generated by a radioactive substance, such as cobalt, or by specialized equipment, such as an atomic particle (linear) accelerator. Radiation preferentially... read more . Surgery may be done using a microscope (microsurgery) to avoid damaging the facial nerve, and hearing can sometimes be saved. Radiation therapy may be done using a very precise technique (called stereotactic radiation therapy) so that only the tumor is affected. Whether surgery or stereotactic radiation therapy is done depends on a number of factors including the person's age, health, amount of hearing loss, and size of the tumor.

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