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About Schwannomas

General Information

  • Schwannomas are benign tumors of the nerve sheath that grow slowly and push nerve fibers aside. They occur most often as solitary tumor but on occasion as multiple lesions.
  • Schwannomas can arise from any peripheral nerve containing Schwann cells, including cranial nerves. (The sheath surrounding nerve cells outside the central nervous symptoms is made up of Schwann cells. They are important to nerve regeneration.)
  • The eighth cranial nerve is the most susceptible to schwannomas. Bilateral schwannomas of the eighth cranial nerve indicate the presence of type 2 neurofibromatosis, which is a genetic condition.
  • In most cases the cause of a schwannoma is unknown, although radiation is suspect on occasion.

Symptoms and diagnosis

  • Mild nerve function problems or pain caused by pressure on the surrounding nerve are the usual symptoms.
  • Schwannomas within the spinal canal may assume a dumbbell shape that extends into or out of the spinal canal along a nerve root. Compression of the spinal cord can lead to weakness, numbness, stiffness, trouble controlling urine or bowel, and paralysis.
  • Compression of the nerve root can lead to pain shooting down the arms or legs, weakness or numbness.


  • Schwannomas with symptoms are surgically removed. Some surgeons advocate removing asymptomatic lesions because they often will grow.


  • In most cases surgical removal involves little or no injury to the parent nerve. Recurrences after total removal are rare.

The Neuro-ICU cares for patients with all types of neurosurgical and neurological injuries, including stroke, brain hemorrhage, trauma and tumors. We work in close cooperation with your surgeon or medical doctor with whom you have had initial contact. Together with the surgeon or medical doctor, the Neuro-ICU attending physician and team members direct your family member's care while in the ICU. The Neuro-ICU team consists of the bedside nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians in specialty training (Fellows) and attending physicians. UCLA Neuro ICU Family Guide