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Vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma)

John K Park, MD, PhD
David M Vernick, MD
Naren Ramakrishna, MD, PhD
Section Editors
Jay S Loeffler, MD
Patrick Y Wen, MD
Deputy Editor
April F Eichler, MD, MPH


Vestibular schwannomas (also known as acoustic neuromas, acoustic schwannomas, acoustic neurinomas, or vestibular neurilemomas) are Schwann cell-derived tumors that commonly arise from the vestibular portion of the eighth cranial nerve (figure 1).

Vestibular schwannomas account for approximately 8 percent of intracranial tumors in adults and 80 to 90 percent of tumors of the cerebellopontine angle (CPA). In comparison, they are rare in children, except for patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). (See "Neurofibromatosis type 2".)

The epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical presentation, diagnosis, and management of patients with vestibular schwannomas will be reviewed here.


The overall incidence of vestibular schwannomas is about one per 100,000 person-years. However, the incidence appears to be increasing, due at least in part to the incidental diagnosis of asymptomatic lesions with the widespread use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography [1,2]. As an example, a retrospective analysis of 46,000 MRI scans done for other reasons identified eight unsuspected vestibular schwannomas (0.02 percent) [1], and autopsy studies suggest that the prevalence may be even higher [3,4].

The median age at diagnosis is approximately 50 years [2]. The tumors are unilateral in more than 90 percent of cases [5], affecting the right and left sides with equal frequency. Bilateral vestibular schwannomas are primarily limited to patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 [4]. (See "Neurofibromatosis type 2", section on 'Vestibular schwannomas'.)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 28, 2017.
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