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Ask Dr. Nandi: Kelly Stafford, wife of Lions QB, returns home after 12 hours of brain surgery

Posted at 4:17 PM, Apr 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 17:50:25-04

(WXYZ) — Kelly Stafford, the wife of Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford, is now back at home following brain surgery to remove a tumor. The surgery was expected to last 6 hours but instead took 12 after doctors found an abnormal vein.

Acoustic neuroma is very rare. It’s a noncancerous tumor that typically grows slowly on the cranial nerve which connects the ear to the brain. As it develops and gets larger, it presses against the hearing and balance nerves so you end up with symptoms like vertigo and dizziness, unsteadiness, and loss of balance. All of which Kelly said she experienced. You can also have hearing loss and tinnitus – which is ringing in the ears. In very rare cases, acoustic neuroma can be life-threatening if it gets large enough and compresses a vital area in our body, the brainstem.

There are three surgical treatment options and the issues she could have depend on which surgical option was chosen. The goal, however, is to avoid facial paralysis and preserve as much hearing as possible, but a patient can end up with permanent and complete hearing loss on the side that had the tumor. They can also have headaches that may persist for months, sometimes years. Other effects include difficulty blinking, double vision, eye sensitivity, dry mouth, taste disturbances - plus the balance nerve can take time to heal. But most people can get back to work in about 8 to 12 weeks.

The cause is not exactly well-understood, but is linked to a malfunctioning gene that is supposed to control the growth of cells that cover the nerves. About 5% of cases are due to a genetic problem called neurofibromatosis-2, which affects both ears. As to whether the tumor can grow back or, it is possible but typically this happens only to a small percentage of patients.