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Lateral Skull Base Tumors

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 Lateral skull base tumors are at the back of the skull base and are typically benign. Some examples include:

  • Acoustic Neuromas—Noncancerous tumors growing on the nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain. Slow growing.
  • Meningiomas—A tumor found on the tissue covering the brain or spinal cord in the skull interior. Typically benign. These can also be anterior tumors.
  • Paragangliomas—Found in the head and neck. Rarely cancerous.

Symptoms of Lateral Skull Base Tumors

Common symptoms of lateral skull base tumors include:

  • hearing loss,
  • headaches,
  • balance problems,
  • problems swallowing, and
  • voice hoarseness.


Consultations for Patients Not Near Salt Lake City

Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, pituitary tumor, or other skull base tumor? You can receive a consultation with a doctor at University of Utah Health. After you send us your MRI scans and audiogram, we will schedule a telephone call with you to discuss your diagnosis.

Please have ready:

  • a copy of the CD of your MRI images,
  • a copy of your audiogram (hearing test), and
  • copies of any balance testing (VNG) or auditory brainstem response (ABR) tests.

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Lateral Skull Base Surgery

Lateral skull base surgery is primarily for removing meningiomas, acoustic tumors, and paragangliomas. The standard treatment for these tumors is microsurgery. Common microsurgery approaches are:

  • translabyrinthine,
  • middle fossa, and
  • retro sigmoid.

We make these approaches through an incision near the ear. We then drill holes in the bone of the skull base to expose the tumor. Finally, we remove the tumor with the visual aid of an operating microscope and an endoscope, if appropriate.

In order to reconstruct the bone of the skull base, we may need to use an abdominal fat graft. This means we take a strip of fat from your abdomen.

Our team of doctors works together to remove the tumor and achieve the best outcome for you. Members of that team can include: 

  • a neurosurgeon,
  • a neurotologist,
  • an anesthesiologist.


Stereotactic radiation allows us to sculpt the dose to the size and shape of the tumor without damaging nearby healthy brain tissue and the optic nerve. We may recommend radiation if:

  • you aren't a good candidate for surgery because of your age and overall health.
  • we need to target remaining cells that could cause the tumor to grow back.
  • surgery is too risky.

We use a computer to calculate the appropriate radiation dose for your tumor. Your radiation treatment, which is delivered externally to your body, may require multiple outpatient visits.

  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery -- This technique delivers radiation in one to five doses. No actual cutting takes place.
  • Radiotherapy -- This technique delivers radiation in a larger number of doses.

Patients do not lose their hair and are often able to return to work the next day.


We rarely choose chemotherapy as a treatment for skull base tumors because most are benign (not cancerous). However, for some malignant tumors, chemotherapy is used to destroy cancer cells or prevent more from growing.

For some patients with acoustic tumors in both ears, we may recommend chemotherapy to keep the tumor from growing and keep your hearing intact. 

Recovery After Skull Base Surgery

After surgery, patients may need to stay in the hospital for a period of four to seven days.

Medication can help relieve your pain and prevent brain swelling and seizure. Levels of exercise will vary, but many patients are encouraged to walk the day after surgery. 

Our skull base surgeons will follow up with you to monitor changes in symptoms. More imaging tests will be needed.

Most patients are able to return to work and normal daily activities after recovery.

Hear from Our Patients

Acoustic Neuroma Patient Finds New Strength after Skull Base Surgery

When Brenda Anderson woke up one morning in July 2018, she couldn’t hear well in one ear. It felt like she needed to pop her ear after getting off an airplane. After two days with no improvements to her hearing, she called a local otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor). Brenda was diagnosed with a vestibular schwannoma, a type of tumor that grows on the hearing and balance nerve between the ear and the brain.

Read Brenda's Story

Teen Undergoes Skull Base Surgery for Acoustic Neuroma

Meghan Shaw was no stranger to the otolaryngologist's (ear, nose, and throat doctor) office. For as long as she could remember, she suffered from frequent sinus infections. She got surgery at age 14 but, by 16, she was back in the otolaryngologist's (ENT) office. This time, it was for something new — a vestibular schwannoma, a rare, slow-growing skull base tumor that affects your hearing and balance.

Read Meghan's Story

Complicated Procedure Pays Off for Young Mom

On the 16th of December, her husband’s birthday, Loralee Ah Mu woke up feeling like she was having a stroke. Her head felt full of dizziness she couldn’t shake off. Immediately, she knew something was wrong and was rushed to the ER. The doctors found a benign tumor in the right side of her brain. Loralee was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma—a rare condition where a tumor develops in the inner ear to the brain, causing hearing loss and imbalance.

Read Loralee's Story