Trigeminal Schwannoma

A schwannoma is a tumor that originates in the Schwann cells that line and insulate the peripheral, autonomic and cranial nerves. A trigeminal schwannoma is a rare, benign tumor that develops at the base of the skull on the fifth and largest cranial nerve (trigeminal nerve). A mixed sensory-motor nerve, the trigeminal nerve receives sensory input from the face and provides motor supply to the muscles responsible for chewing.

The main form of treatment for trigeminal schwannomas is skull base neurosurgery, a highly specialized medical discipline. Many patients with this complex diagnosis turn to Tampa General Hospital’s Neuroscience Institute. Our Skull Base Surgery Center is home to a globally acclaimed team of neurosurgeons who have extensive experience in removing trigeminal schwannomas and other skull base tumors using endoscopic and open approaches. For 2023-24, U.S. News & World Report ranked TGH in the top 10% of U.S. hospitals for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

What Can Cause a Trigeminal Schwannoma?

Like all tumors, schwannomas result from excessive cell replication triggered by DNA damage. The exact causes are not yet fully understood. Scientists believe that certain genetic conditions such as neurofibromatosis may increase the likelihood of developing a trigeminal schwannoma.

What Are the Symptoms of a Trigeminal Schwannoma?

Although trigeminal schwannomas do not invade the brain, a growing tumor can pressure the brainstem and nearby nerves, which can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Sudden, shock-like facial pains
  • Facial swelling
  • Headaches
  • Double vision
  • Numbness and burning sensations along the path of the trigeminal nerve
  • Jaw weakness and difficulty chewing
  • Hearing loss

How Is a Trigeminal Schwannoma Diagnosed?

A trigeminal schwannoma may be diagnosed after a medical history review, physical examination and neurological examination. To confirm the diagnosis, the physician may order imaging studies and/or a biopsy. Due to its multiplanar capabilities and high-contrast detail of soft tissues, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the gold standard for evaluating trigeminal schwannomas. In some cases, the MRI scans are supplemented with computed tomography (CT) scans.

What Are the Treatment Options for a Trigeminal Schwannoma?

The optimal treatment approach for a trigeminal schwannoma is determined based on the type, size and location of the tumor and the patient’s overall health. Potential surgical approaches include minimally invasive endonasal endoscopic surgery, endoscopic craniotomy and open craniotomy.

Choose TGH for World-Class Care

As the field of neuroscience continues to advance, TGH’s practice is keeping pace. We are proud to offer the latest innovations in research, technology and patient care. If you would like to talk with an expert on our team, contact us at (800) 822-3627 to schedule an appointment.

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Learn more about Tampa General Hospital’s Skull Base Surgery Center and find out if our approach to care is right for you.