Anatomic Variants in the Anterior Inferior Cerebellar Artery Encountered During Resection of Vestibular Schwannomas

Operative Neurosurgery 25:512–520, 2023

Vestibular schwannomas (VS) are often phenotypically benign lesions that may be technically challenging to resect because of involvement of neurovascular structures. The anterior inferior cerebellar artery (AICA) is commonly identified near VS, with variable position in relation to the tumor; however, little published literature describes anatomic and pathologic variants of AICA observed during VS resection.

METHODS: A prospectively maintained cohort of surgically managed VS with available operative reports and clinical/ radiographic follow-up was queried and reviewed for noted aberrations.

RESULTS: We identified 66 cases with noted AICA abnormalities among 880 reviewer cases, including 20 loops extending into the internal auditory canal (2.3%), 18 arteries embedded in dura (2.0%), 15 AICA branches directly within VS (1.7%), 8 main trunk arteries coursing between cranial nerves 7 and 8 (0.9%), 3 arteries embedded in temporal bone (0.2%), 1 aneurysm (0.1%), and 1 artery bifurcating cranial nerve 6 (0.1%). The median age of AICA-variant patients was 55 years (range 19-74), and 29 were female (45%). Compared with the other AICA variants, tumors embedded with AICA tended to be larger lesions on maximal axial diameter (2.9 vs 1.6 cm; P = .006), they more commonly underwent less than total resection (73% vs 28%; P = .0001), and they had higher rates postoperative House-Brackmann scores >2 (47% vs 20%; P = .005). Two patients had radiographic and symptomatic postoperative cerebral ischemia or hemorrhage—1 from a bone-encased AICA and 1 from a dural embedded variant.

CONCLUSION: Anatomic variants of AICA occur in approximately 7% of VS operations. Most aberrations do not affect surgical or clinical outcomes, and the rate of major vascular injury was low. However, certain types variably add operative time and in the case of AICA encasement in the tumor, likely indicate a more aggressive tumor phenotype with lower rates of gross total resection and high incidences of facial nerve weakness.