Dr. George Bovis treats a large number of patients each year with a benign brain tumor called an acoustic neuroma. Also referred to as a vestibular schwannoma, it is a brain tumor that grows on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. Although benign, as it grows, it can destroy the internal auditory canal and compress other cranial nerves causing deafness or dizziness. If large enough, an acoustic neuroma can compress the brainstem or obstruct the cerebrospinal fluid pathway, resulting in hydrocephalus. Both of the latter conditions may be life-threatening.

Acoustic neuromas are slow-growing brain tumors. Therefore symptoms do not usually present until patients reach adulthood (30-50 years of age). Ninety percent of patients with acoustic neuromas suffer hearing loss in one ear. Typically the hearing loss is progressive, but can also occur suddenly. Other symptoms cited by patients with acoustic neuromas include tinnitus (ringing in the ear), dizziness and disequilibrium. More than 80% of patients with acoustic neuromas have tinnitus. In some patients tinnitus is a pure tone, and in others it is a noise. Many patients complain of both tinnitus and hearing loss.

Given the tell-tale symptoms of tinnitus and hearing loss, most acoustic neuromas are diagnosed as a result of an MRI scan. Dr. Bovis studies the MRI scans carefully to determine the size of the tumor as well as the pressure the tumor is placing on vital structures. An audiogram may also be used by Dr. Bovis to study the extent of hearing loss.

Treatment options for acoustic neuromas include observation, Gamma Knife radiosurgery and minimally-invasive microsurgery, also referred to as surgical resection. Dr. Bovis, due to his training and vast experience, expertly and judiciously uses these approaches (either singly or in combination) for more complicated cases. He develops an individualized treatment plan taking into consideration the size of the tumor, the presence and severity of symptoms, as well as the age and wishes of the patient.

For patients with small- or medium-sized tumors, Dr. Bovis uses Gamma Knife radiosurgery as the most common form of treatment. This is considered the gold standard approach to this subset of tumors. Excellent long-term results have been reported. Gamma Knife radiosurgery prevents long-term growth of the tumor, limits progression of existing symptoms and prevents the development of new symptoms. Recent quality of life studies have also indicated that Gamma Knife radiosurgery is superior to open surgery. This approach focuses on tumor control instead of tumor removal. It allows patients to avoid open brain surgery.

Disciplined treatment, like that offered by Dr. Bovis at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and Alexian Brothers Medical Center, is predicated on removing as much tumor as possible while minimizing risks of complications. This delicate balance is achievable and in the hands of a highly experience neurosurgeon.

Dr. Bovis performs surgery to treat gliomas at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and Alexian Brothers Medical Center. He also welcomes questions about gliomas. Prospective patients are welcome to call (847) 698-1088 to schedule an appointment.