Focusing on You: Surgeons Team Up to Remove Acoustic Neuromas

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UHealth's multidisciplinary approach brings balance back to patients.

Michael Ivan, M.D., a neurosurgeon who specializes in brain tumors and skull-based surgery, and Christine Dinh, M.D., an otolaryngologist who specializes in hearing and balance disorders at the University of Miami Health System, explain what an acoustic neuroma is and how UHealth’s multidisciplinary approach to treatment benefits patients. Todd Saunders is one of those patients.


Triathlon competitor Todd Saunders knew something was wrong when his balance was off.

“There was a vertigo, and the white line on the road just kind of kept moving,” says Todd.

Todd had an acoustic neuroma, a golf-ball sized tumor at the base of his skull. He was referred to Michael Ivan, M.D., a neurosurgeon who specializes in brain tumors and skull-based surgery at UHealth.

“These kinds of tumors are fortunately benign and they're typically very slow growing. What they do is they grow on one of the nerves in the brain. And typically, it happens on the vestibular nerve, which connects the brain to the balance area of your body,” Dr. Ivan says.

“What are the symptoms?” asks anchor Pam Giganti.

“The most common symptom is hearing loss, balance issues with vertigo or dizziness, tinnitus or ringing in the ear,” says Dr. Ivan.

“My ears were popping, tinnitus, losing interest very quickly in a lot of things because I was agitated,” Todd says.

Todd’s tumor was growing and needed to be removed. The delicate procedure requires UHealth’s multidisciplinary approach. Christine Dinh, M.D., who specializes in hearing and balance disorders, played a critical role in Todd’s surgery.

“Dr. Ivan will remove the portion of the tumor that's closer to the brain stem, and then I will remove the portion of the tumor that goes into the bone of the ear. And so, my role is really to drill some of the bone to be able to expose that tumor and remove it safely,” says Dr. Dinh.

“It needs a team approach: somebody who specializes in hearing and balance and vestibular problems, as well as somebody who specializes in neurological problems. And we work together as a team to come up with the best solution,” Dr. Ivan says.

Doctors successfully removed Todd’s tumor, preserving his hearing and restoring his balance.

“Tell us about your care at UHealth,” Pam says.

“Dr. Ivan, Dr. Dinh, and their entire team were just absolutely phenomenal,” says Todd.

He’s now running again and has a message for the UHealth team.

“There are some days where I'm just thankful and I'll text them, and they text right back. And so, we have that relationship. And every year on my surgery anniversary, I just say, ‘Thanks.’” Todd says.