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There are three main surgical approaches for the removal of acoustic neuromas (vestibular schwannomas). The choice of approach depends on several factors, including the size and location of the tumor, the patient’s hearing status, and the surgeon’s experience and preference.
- Translabyrinthine Approach: This approach involves making an incision behind the ear and removing some of the bone and inner ear structures (the labyrinth). This approach allows good exposure of the tumor and nearby facial nerve, but it results in a complete loss of hearing in the affected ear. It’s typically used for larger tumors, in patients who already have significant hearing loss, or when hearing preservation is not a goal of surgery.
- Retrosigmoid/Suboccipital Approach: The surgeon makes an incision behind the ear, but does not remove the inner ear structures, allowing for the possibility of preserving hearing. This approach is often used when the tumor is smaller, when hearing preservation is a goal, and when the tumor extends further into the brain cavity.
- Middle Fossa Approach: This approach involves an incision above the ear and the removal of a small piece of bone above the ear canal. It’s generally used for smaller tumors that are located near the inner auditory canal and when there’s a chance of preserving hearing.
It’s important to note that every patient and tumor is unique. Therefore, the choice of surgical approach is individualized to the patient’s specific situation. The benefits and risks of each approach should be thoroughly discussed with the surgical team before making a decision.