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Skull Base Surgery


When you face a tumor or other condition that affects your skull base, you need care from a team of specialists with the experience and expertise to treat this delicate and complex area. Choose UNM Health for expert care and advanced technology that helps you achieve the best outcome.

What is the Skull Base?

The skull base is made up of several bones that separate your brain from the rest of the structures in your head, including your eyes, ears and sinuses. It includes a large opening for your spinal cord and many small openings for nerves and blood vessels.

Coordinated, Multidisciplinary Care

Whenever possible, you’ll meet with multiple UNM Health specialists in a single visit so you can get a comprehensive care plan as conveniently as possible. Your team includes professionals such as:

  • Neurosurgeons with advanced training in skull base surgery
  • Endocrinologist (specialist in the endocrine system, including the pituitary gland)
  • Ophthalmologist (eye doctor)
  • Otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist)

Minimally Invasive Options

Depending on your situation, your surgeon may use a minimally invasive surgical approach such as:

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery – Destroys cells using focused beams of high dose radiation
  • Endoscopic skull base surgery – Removes tumors and lesions through the nose and sinuses

Minimally invasive surgery can reduce postoperative pain and recovery time. 

Skull Base Disorders We Treat

Turn to UNM Health for comprehensive treatment of conditions affecting your skull base, including:

  • Acoustic neuromas and other cranial nerve tumors
  • Chordoma
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak
  • Craniophyngioma
  • Epidermoid cyst (supra and infratentorial)
  • Esthesioneuroblastoma
  • Meningioma
  • Metastatic tumors
  • Pituitary tumors, including pituitary adenoma
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic neuromas, also called vestibular schwannomas, are benign (noncancerous) tumors on the vestibulocochlear nerve – the nerve that transmits information about hearing and balance from your inner ear to your brain. This tumor doesn’t spread to other parts of the body and usually grows slowly. But if it grows too large, it can press on the brain or brainstem and become life-threatening.

Depending on your specific condition, your UNM skull base team may recommend observation or removing the tumor using microsurgery or radiosurgery.

Pituitary Tumors

The pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of your brain, regulates your body’s hormones. Most tumors on this gland are benign (noncancerous). As they grow, they can cause your body to produce too much or not enough hormones. They also can press on your optic nerve, causing vision loss.

Depending on your specific condition, your UNM skill base team may recommend removing the tumor using minimally invasive endoscopic surgery.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

If you experience trigeminal neuralgia – shooting facial pain – your doctor may recommend microvascular decompression to relieve pain while reducing your risk for numbness. During this procedure, a surgeon moves any blood vessels that have been compressing your trigeminal nerve and adds padding to help prevent future problems.

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