Surgical management of cerebellopontine angle epidermoid cysts: an institutional experience of 10 years


Cerebellopontine angle (CPA) epidermoids, although of benign nature, are of considerable neurosurgical interest because of their close proximity and adherence to the cranial nerves and brain stem. In this paper, we describe our experience and attempt to correlate the final outcomes with the extent of surgical removal. The main objectives were to study various modes of surgical management of CPA epidermoids with regard to removal and preservation of the cranial nerves and also to evaluate the role of endoscopic assisted microsurgical excision thereby minimizing recurrences. This case series is one of the largest series reported so far worldwide.

Materials and methods: From 2006 to 2016, 139 patients with CPA epidermoids were operated at Grant Medical College and J. J. Hospital, Mumbai. All patients underwent detailed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of brain. Lesions were classified according Rogelio Revuelta-Gutierrez et al. with respect to their anatomic extent: grade I- within the boundaries of the CPA, grade II- extension to the suprasellar and perimesencephalic cisterns, and grade III-parasellar and temporomesial region involvement. Retrosigmoidal and subtemporal approaches were taken to excise the lesions. Endoscopic assisted microsurgical excision was done in cases with extensions beyond the CPA. Patient follow-up was based on outpatient repeated brain MRI studies.

Results: The mean duration of symptoms before surgery was 42 months (range, 2 months to 6 years). The mean follow-up period was 27 months (range, 2–60 months). The main presenting symptom was headache in 69% (96/139) of the cases and trigeminal neuralgia in 30% cases was the second most common cause of consultation. Seventy-five percent of patients had some degree of cranial nerve (CN) involvement. Retrosigmoid approach was taken in 92% patients and 7 patients with supratentorial extension were operated by combined retrosigmoidal and subtemporal approach. Endoscopic assisted microsurgical excision was done in 40% cases. Use of angled views by an endoscope helped to excise residual tumor in 47 (83%) patients. Complete excision was achieved in 67% of cases. In 33% patients, small capsular remnants could not be removed completely because of their adherence to vessels, brainstem and cranial nerves. Compared with their preoperative clinical status, 74% improved and 20% had persistent cranial nerve deficits in the first year of follow up.

Conclusions: Epidermoid cysts are challenging entities in current neurosurgery practice due to tumor adhesions to neurovascular structures. Meticulous surgical technique with the aid of neurophysiological monitoring is crucial to achieve safe and effective total or subtotal removal of these lesions. A conservative approach is indicated for patients in whom the fragments of capsule is adhered closely to blood vessels, nerves, or the brainstem, in order to avoid risk of serious neurological deficits related to an inadvertent damage of these structures. Use of angled views by endoscope at the conclusion of the surgery may assure the surgeon of total removal of the tumor.

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