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Failed to respond to Radiosurgery
Carol Hacker's story

I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma by a neurologist in Atlanta, Georgia four years ago.  Hearing loss prompted me to seek care.  I rejected the idea of surgery and researched the radiosurgery options.  Two years later, I had fractionated radiosurgery at Staten Island University Hospital.  I had 2,000 rads of radiation sread over 5 days.

Two years after radiotherapy, I required surgery in Los Angeles because of tumor progression.  At the time of surgery, I was 51 years old and in excellent health.

I researched my options extensively and chose radiation because of the low risk of complications.  I chose Staten Island University Hospital because they had radiated more acoustic neuromas than any other place in the world.  I rejected the idea of the Gamma Knife because I believed that radiation spread out over several days would be safter and more effective.

I had mild nausea for 2 days during the radiation and I was more tired than usual for about 3 weeks.  I felt great about my radiosurgery experience until 15 months later when my balance started getting worse.  It was also noted that my tumor on the MRI showed almost no necrosis.

A follow-up MRI indicated that I had hydrocephalus.   Symptoms included vertigo, nausea, and vomiting.  Eventually I required surgery for a ventricula shunt to relieve the hydrocephalus.

I felt better for about 30 days and then my balance seemed to get worse.  I also had some transient tingling and numbness in my hands, arms, and legs.  My balance continued to get worse and I had another MRI that showed that the acoustic tumor had grown dramatically.  This surprising news was confirmd by several neurosurgeons and radiologists who also suggested that the tumor might be malignant.

At this stage I decided to schedule surgery in Los Angeles.  From this clinic the neurotologist and neurosurgeon called me to answer questions and find out about my medical history.  The translabyrinthine approach was used to remove the tumor.  Going into surgery, I had transient facial numbness and weakness on the tumor side and no functional hearing.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that the tumor had been irradiated, my facial nerve required a primary facial nerve repair at the time of tumor resection.  I also had   spring implant to enhance eye function.

My balance is much better now than it was prior to surgery.  I started driving immediately upon arriving home.  I went back to work in my home office full time within 2 days of my return to Atlanta.  Within 4 weeks I was back to running and working out at the health club.  Althought my balance isn't what I would consider 'normal', I can function without any problem.

There is no doubt that if I had to do it over, I would still have chosen radiosurgery.   I was in the minority that failed to respond to the radiation.  I continue to encourage newly diagnosed acoustic neuroma patients to explore all options.  There are risks to radiation as well as surgery;  I was willing to take that risk.

Carol Hacker <GaonMind AT aol.com>
November 2000

To Carol's entry in the Patient Directory

Last Edited: Wednesday, October 30, 2002