Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL –  In one of the nation’s longest and most successful surgical partnerships, Loyola Medicine otologic surgeon John Leonetti, MD, and neurosurgeon Douglas Anderson, MD, have worked together to remove 1,500 acoustic neuromas during the past three decades.

An acoustic neuroma, also known as a vestibular schwannoma, is rare, occurring in about one in 100,000 people per year. It is located in the inner ear and grows inward toward the brain. It’s slow-growing and usually benign. The tumor can cause hearing loss and ringing in the ear in one ear and numbness on one side of the face. If the tumor grows large enough, it can be fatal.

Loyola Medicine's Center for Cranial Base Surgery is one of the nation's leading centers in treating acoustic neuromas. The center sees three to four new patients per week and Drs. Anderson and Leonetti jointly perform about 70 acoustic neuroma operations per year.

Removing an acoustic neuroma requires careful planning and delicate surgery. Dr. Leonetti gains access to the tumor and identifies the nerves that must be saved. He then removes the portion of the tumor that lies within the inner ear cylinder. Dr. Anderson removes the portion of the tumor that lies next to the brain.

Before the 1960s, acoustic neuromas were fatal in about half of all patients. Improved technology and techniques, including MRIs and microsurgery, have greatly reduced mortality. The challenge now is to preserve functions of the facial nerve (which controls facial expression), cochlear nerve (hearing) and vestibular nerve (hearing and balance). These nerves are contained in a confined space, called the internal auditory canal, where the tumors arise.  Surgeons must remove as much of the tumor as possible, without damaging the nerves.

In addition to Drs. Leonetti and Anderson, Loyola's clinically integrated team includes highly trained audiologists who attend the surgeries. Electrodes placed directly on the nerves provide real time feedback to audiologists who monitor nerve function during the surgery.

"This gives us, the surgeons, the best chance and a unique opportunity to save hearing in more patients," Dr. Leonetti said.