Hearing preservation and facial nerve function after microsurgery for intracanalicular vestibular schwannomas: comparison of middle fossa and retrosigmoid approaches

R Noudel, P Gomis, J Duntze, D Marnet, A Bazin, P H Roche
Acta Neurochirurgica 2009, 151 (8): 935-44; discussion 944-5

PURPOSE: Therapeutic options for vestibular schwannomas (VS) include microsurgery, stereotactic radiosurgery and conservative management. Early treatment of intracanalicular vestibular schwannomas (IVS) may be advisable because their spontaneous course will show hearing loss in most cases. Advanced microsurgical techniques and continuous intraoperative monitoring of cranial nerves may allow hearing preservation (HP) without facial nerve damage. However, there are still controversies about the definition of hearing preservation, and the best surgical approach that should be used.

METHODS: In this study, we reviewed the main data from the recent literature on IVS surgery and compared hearing, facial function and complication rates after the retrosigmoid (RS) and middle fossa (MF) approaches, respectively.

RESULTS: The results showed that the average HP rate after IVS surgery ranged from 58% (RS) to 62% (MF). HP varied widely depending on the audiometric criteria that were used for definition of serviceable hearing. There was a trend to show that the MF approach offered a better quality of postoperative hearing (not statistically significant), whereas the RS approach offered a better facial nerve preservation and fewer complications (not statistically significant).

CONCLUSIONS: We believe that the timing of treatment in the course of the disease and selection between radiosurgical versus microsurgical procedure are key issues in the management of IVS. Preservation of hearing and good facial nerve function in surgery for VS is a reasonable goal for many patients with intracanalicular tumors and serviceable hearing. Once open surgery has been decided, selection of the approach mainly depends on individual anatomical considerations and experience of the surgeon.

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