Large and small vestibular schwannomas: same, yet different tumors

Acta Neurochirurgica (2021) 163:2199–2207

Vestibular schwannomas (VS) present at variable size with heterogeneous symptomatology. Modern treatment paradigms for large VS include gross total resection, subtotal resection (STR) in combination with observation, and/or radiation to achieve optimal function preservation, whereas treatment is felt to be both easier and safer for small VS. The objective is to better characterize the presentation and surgical outcomes of large and small VS.

Methods We collected data of patients who had surgically treated VS with a posterior fossa diameter of 4.0 cm or larger (large tumor group, LTG) and smaller than 1.0 cm in cisternal diameter (small tumor group, STG). Statistical significance was defined as p < 0.05.

Results LTG included 48 patients (average tumor size: 44.9 mm) and STG 38 (7.9 mm). Patients in STG presented more frequently with tinnitus and sudden hearing loss. Patients in LTG underwent more STR than STG (50.0% vs. 2.6%, p < 0.0001). LTG had more complications (31.3% vs. 13.2%, p = 0.049). Postoperative facial nerve function in STG was significantly better than LTG. STG had better hearing preoperatively (p < 0.0001) and postoperatively than LTG (p = 0.0002). Postoperative headache was more common in STG (13.2% vs. 2.1%, p = 0.045). The rate of recurrence/progression needing treatment was not statistically different between the groups (12.5% in LTG vs. 7.9% in STG, p = 0.49). Those patients who required periprocedural cerebrospinal fluid diversion had higher risk of infection (20.8% vs 4.8%, p = 0.022).

Conclusion Large and small VS present differently. LTG showed more unsatisfactory outcomes in facial nerve function and postoperative hearing despite maximal efforts undertaken toward function-preservation strategy; however, similar tumor control was achieved.