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Cranial Base Center

Run jointly by Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts Eye and Ear, the Cranial Base Center treats tumors and other cranial nerve disorders.
3D image of human head showing the brain and spine
3D image of human head showing the brain and spine
Skeleton showing brain and spine

Explore This Center

Conditions & Diseases

Massachusetts Eye and Ear, the Cranial Base Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Neurosurgery, creates a collaborative approach to comprehensive medicine. Our team of physicians meet regularly to discuss treatment approaches for new patients and to review challenging cases.

Brain, spine and nerve tumor specialists provide innovative, individually tailored approaches to patient care. The Cranial Base Center provides medical and surgical intervention and rehabilitation for the full range of cranial base disorders. Treating tumors at the base of the skull (cranial base) or between the brain and the face and neck (cranio-cervical junction) can be extremely complex. The surrounding areas include a concentration of vital nerves, the spinal cord and major arteries. Symptoms can affect vision, hearing, sense of smell, speech, swallowing, movement and mental faculties.

Whatever the combination of specialists identified—neurosurgeons, radiation therapists, otolaryngologists, radiation and medical oncologists, head and neck surgeons—each patient receives coordinated care to treat for their unique diagnosis.

Proton Radiation Therapy

The Proton Therapy Center, founded in 1962, is the only facility of its kind in New England. Many patients with cranial-base tumors undergo traditional radiation therapy as part of their treatment. Such treatments may be lifesaving for patients whose tumors require high doses of radiation, which are riskier, especially so close to the brain. At Mass General's Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, patients receive state-of-the-art treatment that targets their tumor with protons that minimizes damage to nearby cells and tissue.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Some cranial-base tumors, even large ones, can be removed without a large incision. Our physicians play a key role in developing advanced minimally invasive surgical techniques that allow them to access the skull base using an endoscope placed through the nose, removing tumors and treating deep lesions more safely and precisely.

About This Program

The Cranial Base Center is a joint effort between the Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Department of Otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. The center offers a complete range of services relating to cranial base disorders, including:

  • Consultation
  • Evaluation and diagnosis
  • Treatment in partnership with referring physicians or complete, long-term patient management
  • Advanced surgical, radiologic and medical treatments, including minimally invasive endoscopic surgery and proton radiation therapy
  • Complete support and rehabilitation services, including social work, physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy and nutrition
  • Enrollment in multicenter clinical trials

A Complete Range of Specialists

Our team includes a full range of specialists to provide complete care for patients with malignant or benign tumors and other disorders affecting the cranial base and the cranio-cervical junction:

  • Neurosurgery
  • Head and neck oncology and reconstructive surgery
  • Otolaryngology
  • Rhinology/endoscopic sinus surgery
  • Radiation oncology
  • Radiology and neuroradiology
  • Interventional neuroradiology
  • Head and neck medical oncology
  • Otology and neurotology
  • Neuropathology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Oculoplastic surgery
  • Speech and language therapy

We also treat non-tumor conditions including trauma and central spinal fluid leaks.

As needed, other Mass General and Mass Eye and Ear subspecialists may be involved in patient treatment, including clinicians from Mass General’s Neuroendocrine Clinical Center or Mass Eye and Ear's voice specialists.

Conditions & Diseases

Head and Neck Cancer Care

Our head and neck cancer program focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of all types and stages of cancers in the throat, larynx (voice box), nose, sinuses, salivary glands, and mouth.

With a team of professionals from a broad range of specialties, we provide each patient with a comprehensive, individualized program of care, which may include surgery, medical treatments, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, speech and swallow rehabilitation, or dentistry. Our coordinated approach extends from a patient’s initial visit to any necessary follow-up services, such as social services, home health care, visiting nurse services, and rehabilitation.

Hearing and Balance Disorders

If you or your child suffer from problems of the ear, hearing loss, or often feel dizzy and unsteady, we are here to help. With dedicated services in both hearing and balance, we offer the latest treatments and surgical techniques for such diagnoses. Our team of specially trained physicians, which include ear and skull base surgeons, neurologists specializing in balance, and audiologists, work with each patient to provide exceptional care that is custom-tailored to their needs.

Surgical intervention and rehabilitation for the full range of cranial base disorders, including:

  • Acoustic Neuroma
  • Brain Tumors
  • Neoplasm
  • Meningioma
  • Tumors of the orbit and cavernous sinus
  • Bone tumors
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Craniofacial vascular malformations
  • Traumatic or neoplastic compression of the optic nerve
  • Cranial nerve neoplasms
  • Osteoradionecrosis
  • Developmental and congenital abnormalities, including basilar impression, Chiari malformation, and aural atresia
  • Vascular lesions
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Post-traumatic reconstruction

Patient Experience


Surgery for Pituitary Adenoma
Surgery for Pituitary Adenoma

Surgery for Pituitary Adenoma

I have been told I need surgery for a pituitary adenoma. What does this mean?

FAQ on Cushings disease
Surgery for Cushing's Disease

Surgery for Cushing's Disease

Cushing's disease is the physical and emotional difficulties caused by elevated cortisol

Pituitary Tumors and Headaches
Pituitary Tumors and Headaches

Pituitary Tumors and Headaches

Headaches are a common complaint in patients with pituitary tumors.

Pituitary Tumor Treatment Options
Pituitary Tumor Treatment Options

Pituitary Tumor Treatment Options

Learn more about medication, hormone, surgical, and radiation treatment therapies.

Support Neurosurgery

Philanthropic support for the Department of Neurosurgery at Mass General is critical to patient care, research and education.