Cranial Nerve Schwannomas

A schwannoma is a relatively rare type of tumor that forms in the Schwann cells, which separate and insulate the nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system. Most schwannomas are solitary, benign and slow-growing.

Cranial nerve schwannomas are skull base tumors that develop in the 12 paired nerves at the back of the brain. The cranial nerves transmit electrical impulses between the brain, face, neck and torso to provide sensations such as taste, smell, touch and sound. These types of skull base tumors can include vestibular schwannoma (also known as acoustic neuroma) and trigeminal schwannoma.

Tampa General Hospital’s Neuroscience Institute is home to a globally respected team of specialists. The neurosurgeons and ear, nose and throat surgeons who practice in our Skull Base Surgery Center have extensive experience in treating cranial nerve schwannomas and other skull base tumors using open, keyhole and endoscopic approaches. By combining leading-edge technology and instrumentation with proven surgical expertise, our team is continually making skull base surgery safer, less invasive and more effective for our patients. TGH is proud to have earned the prestigious “high performing” designation for Neurology and Neurosurgery from U.S. News & World Report for 2022-23.

What Can Cause Cranial Nerve Schwannomas?

Most cranial nerve schwannomas seem to develop randomly in otherwise healthy people between the ages of 50 and 60. Children are rarely affected.

Scientists believe that some schwannomas are caused by a genetic condition, such as:

  • Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2)
  • Schwannomatosis
  • Carney complex

Through extensive genetic studies, researchers have found that the NF2 gene on chromosome 22 plays an essential role in schwannoma development.

What Symptoms Are Caused by Cranial Nerve Schwannomas?

Schwannomas can exist for years without causing noticeable symptoms. As a tumor grows, it may begin to press on the brainstem and other cranial nerves, which can lead to:

  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Balance and coordination issues
  • Vertigo
  • Facial pain and numbness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Double vision

How Are Cranial Nerve Schwannomas Diagnosed?

If a cranial nerve schwannoma is suspected based on the symptoms, a physician will typically order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan with contrast to help illuminate any tumors and other abnormal tissues in the resulting images. Other tests that may be used in the diagnostic process include:

How Are Cranial Nerve Schwannomas Treated?

For most cranial nerve schwannomas, the preferred treatment method is maximal safe surgical removal, which may involve:

  • A retromastoid (behind the ear) keyhole craniotomy
  • An endoscopic endonasal procedure

If a schwannoma cannot be completely removed, radiation therapy may be considered to help control further tumor growth. Chemotherapy is not generally used for treating schwannomas.

Choose TGH for World-Class Care

At TGH, you can receive personalized care from some of the most skilled and experienced neurosurgeons, ENT surgeons and other skull base surgery specialists in the world. To schedule an appointment, contact us at (800) 822-3627.

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