JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Split facial nerve course in vestibular schwannomas.

OBJECT: The facial nerve in vestibular schwannomas (VSs) is located on the ventral tumor surface in more than 90% of cases; other courses are rare. A split facial nerve course with two distinct bundles has thus far been described exclusively for medial extrameatal tumors.

METHODS: Between 1996 and 2005, 16 consecutive cases of 241 surgically treated VSs were observed to have distinct splitting of the facial nerve. The mean tumor size measured 27 mm. In one third of the cases, intrameatal tumor extension with obliteration of the fundus was documented. All patients underwent extensive intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring using multichannel electromyography recordings. Patients were reevaluated 12 months after surgery. In all 16 patients, distinct splitting of the facial nerve was demonstrated. The major portion of the facial nerve followed a typical course on the ventral tumor surface. The smaller nerve portion in all cases ran parallel to the brainstem up to the level of the trigeminal root exit zone and crossed on the cranial tumor pole to the internal auditory canal. The two nerve portions rejoined at the level of the porus acusticus. The smaller portion carried fibers exclusively to the orbicularis oris muscle, whereas the major portion supplied all three branches of the facial nerve.

CONCLUSIONS: In VSs, an aberrant course with distinct splitting of the facial nerve adds considerably to the surgical challenge. Long-term facial nerve results are excellent with extensive neurophysiological monitoring, which allows the differentiation and identification of aberrant facial nerve fibers and avoids additional risks to facial nerve preservation.

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