Preemptive strategies and lessons learned from complications encountered with microvascular decompression for hemifacial spasm

J Neurosurg 140:248–259, 2024

OBJECTIVE Microvascular decompression (MVD) is the only curative treatment modality for hemifacial spasm (HFS). Although generally considered to be safe, this surgical procedure is surrounded by many risks and possible complications. The authors present the spectrum of complications that they met in their case series, the possible causes, and the strategies recommended to minimize them.

METHODS The authors reviewed a prospectively maintained database for MVDs performed from 2005 until 2021 and extracted relevant data including patient demographics, offending vessel(s), operative technique, outcome, and different complications. Descriptive statistics with uni- and multivariable analyses for the factors that may influence the seventh, eighth, and lower cranial nerves were performed.

RESULTS Data from 420 patients were obtained. Three hundred seventeen of 344 patients (92.2%) with a minimum follow-up of 12 months had a favorable outcome. The mean follow-up (standard deviation) was 51.3 ± 38.7 months. Immediate complications reached 18.8% (79/420). Complications persisted in only 7.14% of patients (30/420) including persistent hearing deficits (5.95%) and residual facial palsy (0.95%). Temporary complications included CSF leakage (3.10%), lower cranial nerve deficits (3.57%), meningitis (0.71%), and brainstem ischemia (0.24%). One patient died because of herpes encephalitis. Statistical analyses showed that the immediate postoperative disappearance of spasms and male gender are correlated with postoperative facial palsy, whereas combined vessel compressions involving the vertebral artery (VA) and anterior inferior cerebellar artery can predict postoperative hearing deterioration. VA compressions could predict postoperative lower cranial nerve deficits.

CONCLUSIONS MVD is safe and effective for treating HFS with a low rate of permanent morbidity. Proper patient positioning, sharp arachnoid dissection, and endoscopic visualization under facial and auditory neurophysiological monitoring are the key points to minimize the rate of complications in MVD for HFS.