Trigeminal schwannomas: experience with 57 cases and a review of the literature

Neurosurg Rev (2011) 34:159–171. DOI 10.1007/s10143-010-0289-y

Trigeminal schwannoma is a mostly benign tumor that can be cured by complete resection. Over the last few decades, several pioneers have developed surgical approaches enabling the total removal of such tumors.

We analyzed 57 patients who underwent radical surgery, including 45 patients who underwent skull base surgery as their initial treatment, for removal of trigeminal schwannomas. Here, we report the surgical management of these cases. Since 1990, all such patients have been treated using three main types of middle fossa skull base approaches, which minimize the exposure of the brain: the anterior transpetrosal approach, subtemporal interdural approach (Dolenc), or a combination of these approaches.

Before 1990, total tumor removal was achieved in only three of eight patients (38%). After 1990, the tumors were totally removed in 43 patients (90%) and were nearly completely removed in an additional three patients (6%). Among the patients who underwent skull base surgery as their initial treatment, a complete resection was achieved in 93% (42/45 patients) of the cases. However, total surgical removal after surgery and Gamma knife surgery was very difficult because of dense adhesions to the brain stem and cranial nerves. No surgery-related mortalities occurred in this series, and the individual KPS scores were more than 90% among the patients who underwent skull base surgery. No recurrences requiring additional surgery have occurred after an average follow-up period of 4.9 years.

Most of the trigeminal schwannomas could be removed totally and safely during a single operation after the introduction of skull base surgery. Therefore, radiosurgery should not be applied as the treatment of first choice for younger patients. A correct anatomical knowledge is critical for minimizing brain exposure and avoiding surgical complications.