Neurofibromas of the Brain Spinal, or Peripheral Nerves in New Jersey
erves located in the head and neck are referred to as cranial and spinal nerves. The peripheral nerves in the head and neck transmit signals from the brain to command muscle function. Neurofibromas are tumors that develop in the nerve, or the nerve sheath, the area that surrounds the nerve. These tumors are usually benign (noncancerous), but they sometimes develop malignancy (cancer). Neurofibromas growing in the cranial, spinal, or peripheral nerves may occur in patients who have been diagnosed with the genetic disorders known as Neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1), Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2), and Schwannomatosis (SWM).
These disorders are often diagnosed at birth or in young children, but some of the resulting tumors don’t develop until later in life. The compassionate neurosurgeons at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics are spine specialists who provide diagnoses and treatments for any tumors that may develop in the peripheral nerves, brain, spine, or skull. When brain surgery is required, this award-winning medical team will provide the best outcome for patients in New Jersey.
Nerve tumors that present in the cranium, or skull, can result in a variety of signs and symptoms and can affect the functioning of the brain by interfering with the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluids. Babies and toddlers may experience delays in developing physical skills and muscle strength or be less coordinated than children of a similar age if they have a nerve or brain tumor.
Patients of all ages who experience symptoms related to neurofibromas in the cranial nerves may complain of:
- Headaches and pain
- Hearing loss
- Facial muscle weakness, numbness, or twitch
- Vision loss and changes, such as blurred or double
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sleepiness and lethargy
- Seizures, nausea, and vomiting
- Reduced appetite
- Losing balance, instability
- Dizziness, or vertigo
- Loss of bladder control or frequent urination
- Memory decline or loss
- Reduced thinking ability, or concentration
These tumors in the neck and spine might interfere with structural development in infants and young children. Adults are affected by slowly growing tumors that impinge on surrounding areas of the body or constrict nerve signals.
Signs and symptoms of spinal neurofibromas may include:
- Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine
- Pain in back and limbs
- Loss of bladder control
- Osteoporosis, or low bone density
Growths or tumors in the peripheral nerves are not usually malignant but can still damage the nerve. Peripheral neurofibromas can affect function in the areas of the body that are served by the nerves, which facilitate communication between the brain and muscles.
Signs and symptoms of peripheral neurofibromas may include:
- Dizziness, or loss of balance
- Numbness, and tingling in extremities
- Loss of function and weakness
- Swelling beneath the skin, lumps
Causes and Risk Factors
Patients who have been diagnosed with NF1, NF2, or Schwannomatosis (SWM) are more likely to develop neurofibromas of the skull, neck, and peripheral nerves. In these cases, genetic mutations have interfered with normal protein production, and that allows cells to grow and form tumors. Although these tumors are usually benign, their location within or around the nerves can impact function in a variety of structures within the head and neck, including the brain.
Patients are at risk for developing neurofibromas of the cranial, spinal, and peripheral nerves if a parent carries this genetic mutation. The child of an affected parent has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutation. However, the mutations also form spontaneously, in 30 to 50 percent of cases. A history of radiation treatment may also be a risk factor. Only about three to five percent of neurofibromas become malignant, and around one-third of all affected by neurofibromatosis are symptom-free.
Diagnosis and treatment
After a thorough discussion of the patient’s family history and an examination of all signs and symptoms, the medical team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics might order these tests:
- Genetic tests to determine NF1, NF2, or SWM status
- Electromyogram (EMG) to measure electrical activity in the muscle
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to view nerves and tissue
- Nerve conduction test: Often given along with an EMG to measure electrical activity in the nerves
- Nerve biopsy when an examination of nerve tissue is required
- Tumor biopsy if deemed necessary to determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant
There is no cure for neurofibroma, although research is ongoing. The head and neck are complex structures and include many nerve structures, so tumors may develop throughout the area of the skull, spine, and peripheral nerves. Because of the wide variety of symptoms that patients experience, locations in the body where tumors grow, and the diverse effects on sensory or muscle function experienced by patients, the experienced specialists at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics utilize a variety of treatments. It is usually necessary to monitor the condition with regular appointments, often in conjunction with imaging technologies.
Additional treatments may include:
- Removal of acoustic neuromas and/or cochlear implants to boost hearing function
- Surgery to reduce pressure on nerves or other bodily structures
- Stereotactic radiosurgery, for precision application of radiation therapy
- Pain management for headaches
- Medications for learning disabilities
- Chemotherapy and radiation treatments for brain tumors
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
Find Assistance at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics
Patients and their families rely on the experience and compassion of the neurosurgeons at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics throughout New Jersey in Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Morris, and Hudson Counties. They of Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Morris, and Hudson Counties fer full diagnoses, and a variety of treatment options, for neurofibromas of the skull, neck, and peripheral nerves. Contact CNSO for an appointment today.