Management of large vestibular schwannoma. Part II. Primary Gamma Knife surgery: radiological and clinical aspects

J Neurosurg 115:885–893, 2011.DOI: 10.3171/2011.6.JNS101963

In large vestibular schwannomas (VSs), microsurgery is the main treatment option. A wait-and-scan policy or radiosurgery are generally not recommended given concerns of further lesion growth or increased mass effect due to transient swelling. Note, however, that some patients do not present with symptomatic mass effect or may still have serviceable hearing. Moreover, others may be old, suffer from severe comorbidity, or refuse any surgery. In this study the authors report the results in patients with large, growing VSs primarily treated with Gamma Knife surgery (GKS), with special attention to volumetric growth, control rate, and symptoms.

Methods. The authors retrospectively analyzed 33 consecutive patients who underwent GKS for large, growing VSs, which were defined as > 6 cm3 and at least indenting the brainstem. Patients with neurofibromatosis Type 2 were excluded from analysis, as were patients who had undergone previous treatment. Volume measurements were performed on contrast-enhanced T1-weighted MR images at the time of GKS and during follow-up. Medical charts were analyzed for clinical symptoms.

Results. Radiological growth control was achieved in 88% of cases, clinical control (that is, no need for further treatment) in 79% of cases. The median follow-up was 30 months, and the mean VS volume was 8.8 cm3 (range 6.1–17.7 cm3). No major complications occurred, although ventriculoperitoneal shunts were placed in 2 patients. The preservation of serviceable hearing and facial and trigeminal nerve function was achieved in 58%, 91%, and 86% of patients, respectively, with any facial and trigeminal neuropathy being transient. In 92% of the patients presenting with trigeminal hypesthesia before GKS, the condition resolved during follow-up. No patient- or VS-related feature was correlated with growth.

Conclusions. Primary GKS for large VSs leads to acceptable radiological growth rates and clinical control rates, with the chance of hearing preservation. Although a higher incidence of clinical control failure and postradiosurgical morbidity is noted, as compared with that for smaller VSs, primary radiosurgery is suitable for a selected group of patients. The absence of symptomatology due to mass effect on the brainstem or cerebellum is essential, as are close clinical and radiological follow-ups, because there is little reserve for growth or swelling.