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Recovery Outlook for Acoustic Neuroma

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Acoustic neuromas are also called vestibular schwannomas. They are noncancerous (benign) brain tumors that grow slowly for years on the balance (vestibular) nerve leading from the inner part of the ear to the brain. They don’t spread to other body parts.

These tumors may grow large enough to press against your brainstem, which can interfere with your balance and other vital functions. However, they are usually diagnosed and treated before they get to this stage.

Acoustic neuromas are more common in adults aged 30 to 60 years. In this post, you will find more information about the recovery outlook for acoustic neuromas.

Can You Live Long With an Acoustic Neuroma?

A benign brain tumor such as an acoustic neuroma can be treated completely if diagnosed early.

But if left untreated, it can lead to serious neurological issues, like imbalance and hearing loss. Therefore, this condition needs proper treatment and immediate attention.

Treatment of benign tumors doesn't stop with surgery or radiation therapies. For a patient to have the best possible outlook, follow-up care is critical.

What Is the Success Rate of Acoustic Neuroma Surgery?

Surgical treatment of acoustic neuromas is generally recommended when the tumor grows rapidly or is large.

The procedure involves removing the tumor through a window in your skull. If successfully removed and the facial nerve is preserved, the patient's hearing is most often affected.

Some of the risks of this procedure include worsening symptoms and facial muscle weakness, leading to significant cosmetic issues.

These symptoms may be temporary or permanent. Only 30% of the patients suffering from acoustic neuromas experience growth after four years.

The remaining 70% of the tumors do not grow. There is always a chance of growth even if the tumor has stayed the same size for multiple years.

Overall, the success rate of acoustic neuroma surgery is high in the hands of experienced surgeons but side effects of possible facial weakness and high risk of hearing loss potentially require lifestyle adjustments.

What Is the Survival Rate for an Acoustic Neuroma?

Modern surgical advancements have made the acoustic neuroma surgery procedure more effective, safe, and easier to recover from. The surgery aims to eliminate the tumor without significantly affecting facial nerve function.

It’s possible to preserve hearing after acoustic neuroma surgery, but this depends on various factors, such as how well a patient hears before the procedure, tumor size, and the surgical approach. Up to half of patients with small tumors with useful hearing before the operation will retain proper hearing even after the surgery.

For large tumors, it is not possible to preserve hearing. The risk of facial nerve and hearing complications after the treatment increases when the tumor is large. Most of the patients undergoing this procedure survive with a mortality rate of less than 0.5%.

Is Acoustic Neuroma Life-Threatening?

Although acoustic neuromas don’t grow rapidly, they can lead to hearing loss and imbalance. If the growth is left untreated, it can result in a dangerous buildup of fluid in your brain, or it may compress the cerebellum and your brainstem, which can be life-threatening.

However, this isn’t common for patients whose acoustic neuromas are well-diagnosed and treated. So, it’s essential to see a specialist once you are diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma.

What Is the Prognosis for an Acoustic Neuroma?

In most cases, the initial signs and symptoms of an acoustic neuroma are subtle, easy to ignore, and it may take many years before they start to show. The symptoms usually occur due to the tumor's effect on the nerves responsible for hearing and balance. The tumor may also cause pressure on the brainstem and nearby nerves controlling facial sensation. As the tumor grows, the patient may experience severe symptoms. The main symptoms of an acoustic neuroma include:

  • Hearing loss, which worsens as time goes by.
  • Loss of balance or unsteadiness.
  • Ringing in the affected ear, also known as tinnitus.
  • Dizziness, also known as vertigo.

Therefore, consult a doctor If you start noticing that one of your ears has a hearing problem. Overall, the prognosis of acoustic neuromas is good with proper treatment and follow-up since these tumors are benign (non-cancerous).

Acoustic Neuroma Prognosis, Post-Op Recovery and the Importance of Follow-Up

Acoustic neuromas aren't cancerous, so they don't spread to other body parts. But they can grow, causing pressure on essential brain structures. So, if you undergo surgery, it's important to have follow-up MRIs periodically after surgery. That way, you will be sure the tumor isn't growing back.

Immediate Post-Surgery Expectations 

Within the first few days after surgery, you’ll spend time in the hospital under close monitoring. Medical staff will regularly assess your vital signs and neurological status and manage any immediate post-operative pain. 

It’s common to feel groggy and fatigued as the anesthesia wears off, which is completely normal. Your body has just undergone a significant procedure, and rest is vital to healing.

Acoustic Neuroma Recovery: Potential Complications After Surgery

Acoustic neuroma surgery often leads to positive outcomes, but it’s still essential to be aware of the common complications that may arise after the operation. 

  • Hearing Loss: Permanent hearing loss on the operated side can occur following acoustic neuroma surgery. Hearing aids or cochlear implants can help patients adapt to changes in their hearing capabilities. 
  • Tinnitus: The ringing or buzzing noise may become more noticeable after surgery. While usually irreversible, various sound therapy options and tinnitus management techniques can assist in minimizing its impact on your daily life.
  • Dizziness and Balance Problems: Dizziness and balance issues are common but generally improve over time as the body adapts. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy can enhance inner ear functions and aid your return to regular activity.
  • Facial Paralysis: Facial nerve weakness or paralysis can affect facial expressions and eye closure. Physical therapy exercises and, sometimes, surgical interventions can support recovery, improving facial nerve function and appearance.
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Leak: This is a less common but serious complication that requires prompt medical attention. Symptoms such as clear fluid drainage from the nose or ear must be treated immediately to prevent infections like meningitis. 

Maintaining open communication with your healthcare team in each step of your acoustic neuroma surgical recovery is essential. They are dedicated to guiding you through whatever challenge may arise and get you on the path to a successful recovery.

The Importance of Follow-Up Consultations

You must attend your scheduled follow-up consultations as you navigate the first few weeks post-op. These appointments allow your medical team to track your healing progress, manage complications and adjust your recovery plan as needed. It’s also a time to address any concerns or questions. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare team between appointments if anything feels off; they are your partners in this journey. 

Life Expectancy After Acoustic Neuroma Surgery

Acoustic neuroma can be treated effectively if diagnosed early. But if left untreated, it can lead to serious neurological problems. The life expectancy for patients suffering from an acoustic neuroma is very favorable with most patients enjoying productive lives.

What Happens if Acoustic Neuroma Is Untreated?

If an acoustic neuroma isn't treated, it can continue to grow and compress structures in your brain responsible for hearing, balance, gait, and facial sensation/movement. Symptoms may develop slowly, depending on the rate of tumor growth. Symptoms typically become more noticeable with faster-growing tumors.

Key Takeaways

  • Acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous (benign) brain tumor.
  • The tumor can be treated effectively, especially if diagnosed early.
  • Common initial symptoms include hearing loss, unsteadiness, and tinnitus.
  • There are many strategies for treating an acoustic neuroma, including regular monitoring, surgery, or radiation.