Neurofibromatosis 2

Karen S Dixit MD (

Dr. Dixit of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

James H Tonsgard MD (

Dr. Tonsgard, Director of the University of Chicago Ambulatory Program for Neurofibromatosis, has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Rimas V Lukas MD, editor. (

Dr. Lukas of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine received honorariums from AbbVie as a guest speaker, from NewLink Genetics and Reneuron for consulting work, and from Monetris as an advisory board member.

Originally released March 21, 1995; last updated March 7, 2018; expires March 7, 2021

This article includes discussion of neurofibromatosis type 2, acoustic neurofibromatosis, central neurofibromatosis, and NF2. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.


Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) is a tumor predisposition syndrome most commonly associated with the development of multiple schwannomas (classically bilateral vestibular schwannomas), meningiomas, and ependymomas. This disorder is caused by mutations in the neurofibromatosis 2 gene, a tumor suppressor gene that encodes for merlin/schwannomin and is located on chromosome 22.

Key points


• Neurofibromatosis type 2 is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by mutations of the neurofibromatosis type 2 gene, a tumor suppressor gene located on chromosome 22, whose normal protein product is Merlin/Schwannomin.


• The average age of onset for neurofibromatosis type 2 is 22 years old, but patients may also present in childhood. The majority of affected children do not present with the vestibular or auditory complaints typical of adult patients.


• Classically, patients have bilateral vestibular schwannomas (CN 8), which are frequently responsible for the initial presenting complaints (ie, hearing loss and tinnitus) in adult patients. Other associated sequelae include nervous system tumors (ie, meningiomas, schwannomas affecting other cranial nerves or spinal nerve roots, and gliomas), lens abnormalities, and peripheral neuropathy, among others.


• Although neurofibromatosis type 2 patients sometimes display cutaneous features (eg, pigmented skin lesions called “cafe au lait” spots) typical of neurofibromatosis type 1, these skin findings are typically less common and less numerous than in neurofibromatosis type 1 patients.


• Treatments currently target specific disease manifestations (ie, tumors, cataracts, neuropathy) rather than the underlying disease process. Genetic counseling is recommended to first-degree relatives of affected individuals.

Historical note and terminology

Neurofibromatosis type 2 has also been called central or acoustic neurofibromatosis because of its characteristic involvement of the central nervous system with tumors, especially meningiomas and acoustic neuromas that are now termed vestibular schwannomas (Eldridge 1990). It is much less common than neurofibromatosis type 1, with which, historically, it was often confused (Short et al 1994). It accounts for 5% to 10% of all cases of neurofibromatosis (Eldridge 1990). Neurofibromatosis type 2 is now well characterized clinically as an autosomal dominant disorder with genetic origins on the long arm of chromosome 22, distinct from neurofibromatosis type 1 (Rouleau et al 1987; Wertelecki et al 1988).

Wishart reported the first patient with probable neurofibromatosis type 2 who had multiple intracranial tumors and no recorded cutaneous features (Wishart 1820). Harvey Cushing reported a case of acoustic neuromas in 1917 and considered it to be a form of neurofibromatosis because the pathological changes were so similar to those seen in von Recklinghausen cases (Cushing 1917). However, from the time of von Recklinghausen's report in 1865 until recently, neurofibromatosis type 1 and neurofibromatosis type 2 were frequently classified as the same disease and referred to as von Recklinghausen disease or multiple neurofibromatosis (Short et al 1994). The perception that neurofibromatosis type 1 and neurofibromatosis type 2 were 1 disease arose because café au lait spots and peripheral nerve tumors can occur in either condition (Short et al 1994). Following the recognition of the autosomal dominant inheritance pattern of acoustic neuromas, these tumors were considered 1 of the complications of neurofibromatosis type 1 (Huson 1994).

Gardiner and Frazier reported a large family from Pennsylvania with neurofibromatosis type 2 and suggested that the bilateral acoustic neuromas represented a separate form of neurofibromatosis (Gardiner and Frazier 1930). The subclassification was not adopted at that time, however. A large study of neurofibromatosis in 1956 reported 5% of patients with what was called multiple neurofibromatosis, who had bilateral acoustic neuromas and, in retrospect, probably had neurofibromatosis type 2 (Short et al 1994).

A follow-up study of the Gardiner and Frazier family in 1970 again concluded that the condition was different from von Recklinghausen disease and suggested that it be called central neurofibromatosis (Young et al 1970). This subclassification was more widely accepted by the 1980s (Kanter et al 1980; Riccardi 1981), and the natural history of neurofibromatosis type 2, with its greater morbidity and mortality in the majority of affected individuals, was recognized (Huson and Thrush 1985; Martuza and Eldridge 1988). Moreover, the absence of acoustic neuromas in neurofibromatosis type 1 was also appreciated (Riccardi 1982). The NIH Consensus Panel agreed in 1987 on clinical guidelines for diagnosis and nomenclature, recommending the name neurofibromatosis type 2 rather than central or acoustic neurofibromatosis (Neurofibromatosis Conference Statement 1988). The mapping of the neurofibromatosis type 2 gene to chromosome 22 confirmed the impression of neurofibromatosis type 2 as a distinct entity (Rouleau et al 1987). Research surrounding neurofibromatosis type 2 has been dominated by gene studies and the process in which these gene abnormalities impact disease course. This translational research has guided current research efforts in neurofibromatosis type 2 and has subsequent powerful clinical impact in future potential therapeutic options.

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