Sanford surgeons team up to remove patient’s rare tumor

Hearing loss was only symptom of acoustic neuroma for Minnesota man

Sanford surgeons team up to remove patient’s rare tumor

In his late 40s, Scott Johnson of Alexandria, Minnesota, started noticing some hearing loss in his right ear.

“I actually got hearing aids, and just noticed that the right ear just continued to progress,” said Johnson. “The hearing was getting more distant, and if people were on my right side, I couldn’t pick up the conversation.”

Because his hearing was so different in both ears though, Johnson’s doctors recommended more tests.

“A lot of people have hearing loss as they get older and they attribute it to aging,” said Michael Shinners, M.D., a neurotologist at Sanford Health Fargo. “But usually your hearing loss is fairly even between your ears and his was pretty uneven. That’s what prompted the MRI that found the tumor.”

Johnson was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor near his brainstem and cranial nerves.

Dual surgery

Johnson opted for surgery to have the tumor removed rather than risk it growing and pushing on those nerves. This would require two Sanford surgeons. Dr. Shinners would open up a pathway behind Johnson’s ear, then Adam Jackson, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Sanford Fargo, would remove the tumor near the brainstem.

“We’re the only center that deals with these types of tumors in North Dakota or South Dakota,” said Dr. Jackson. “It’s a true multidisciplinary team effort for these kinds of surgeries. That’s more advantageous for the patient to have a multidisciplinary team approach versus one surgeon doing 11 hours of surgery.”

The surgery was a success. Johnson’s facial nerve was preserved and he continues to improve six months out from his procedure. He knew going in though that the procedure would cost him the hearing in his right ear.

“It’s completely gone on that right side. … It’s just black silence,” said Johnson. “The reality of it is, I actually hear better now than I did with my hearing aids because my left ear picked up. Now based on the sound and the tone, I can kind of get more directional of where it’s coming from.”

Back at it

Now age 50, Johnson says his life is back to normal.

“I feel amazing,” said Johnson. “I’m back doing everything that I was doing prior to the surgery. I’m fishing, I’m exercising, working out, I’m back coaching wrestling. It was great.”

All thanks to a true team effort by his doctors.

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Posted In Brain & Spine, Ear, Nose & Throat, Fargo, Neurology, Specialty Care