Treatment decision making based on the published natural history and growth rate of small meningiomas

J Neurosurg 113:1036–1042, 2010, DOI: 10.3171/2010.3.JNS091966

Definitive data allowing clinicians to predict which meningioma patients will fail to respond to conservative management are lacking. To address this need, the authors systematically reviewed the published literature regarding the natural history of small, untreated meningiomas.

Methods. The authors performed a systematic review of the existing literature on untreated meningiomas that were followed with serial MR imaging. They summarize the published linear rates of tumor growth, and the risk factors for development of new or worsened symptoms during follow-up by using a stratified chi-square test.

Results. The search methods identified 22 published studies reporting on 675 patients with untreated meningiomas followed by serial MR imaging. Linear growth rates varied significantly: no growth was the most common rate, although reports of more aggressive tumors noted growth rates of up to a 93% linear increase in size per year. The authors found that few patients with initial tumor diameters < 2 cm went on to develop new or worsened symptoms over a median follow-up period of 4.6 years. Patients with initial tumor diameters of 2–2.5 cm demonstrated a marked difference in the rate of symptom progression if their tumors grew > 10% per year, compared with those tumors growing ≤ 10% per year (42% vs 0%; p < 0.001, chi-square test). Patients with tumors between > 2.5 and 3 cm in initial size went on to develop new or worsened symptoms 17% of the time.

Conclusions. This systematic review of the literature regarding the clinical behavior of untreated meningiomas suggests that most meningiomas ≤ 2.5 cm in diameter do not proceed to cause symptoms in the approximately 5-year period following their discovery. Those that do cause symptoms can usually be predicted with close radiographic follow-up. Based on these findings, the authors suggest the importance of observation in the early course of treatment for small asymptomatic meningiomas, especially those with an initial diameter < 2 cm.

The natural history of untreated sporadic vestibular schwannomas: a comprehensive review of hearing outcomes

J Neurosurg 112:163–167, 2010.(DOI: 10.3171/2009.4.JNS08895)

Observation is an important consideration when discussing management options for patients with vestibular schwannoma (VS). Most data regarding clinical outcomes after conservative management come from modestsized series performed at individual centers. The authors performed an analysis of the published literature on the natural history of VSs with respect to hearing outcome. Their objective was to provide a comprehensive and unbiased description of outcomes in patients whose disease was managed conservatively. Methods. The authors identified a total of 34 published studies containing hearing outcome data in patients with VSs < 25 mm in largest diameter who underwent observation management. The effects of initial tumor size and tumor growth rate on hearing function at latest follow-up were analyzed. Data from individual and aggregated cases were extracted from each study. Patients with poorer hearing (American Association of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Classes C or D, or Gardner-Robertson Classes III, IV, or V) at the time of presentation were excluded.

Results. A total of 982 patients met the inclusion criteria for this analysis, with a mean initial tumor size of 11.3 ± 0.68 mm. The mean growth rate was 2.9 ± 1.2 mm/year. The length of follow-up for these studies ranged from 26 to 52 months. Patients with preserved hearing at latest follow-up had a statistically larger initial tumor size than those whose hearing declined during the observation period (11.5 ± 2.3 mm vs 9.3 ± 2.7 mm, p < 0.0001), but the 2-mm difference of means was at the limit of imaging resolution and observer reliability. In contrast, patients with lower rates of tumor growth (≤ 2.5 mm/year) had markedly higher rates of hearing preservation (75 vs 32%, p < 0.0001) compared with patients with higher tumor growth rates. Interestingly, the authors’ analysis found no difference in the rate of reported intervention for patients in either group (16 vs 18%, p = not significant).

Conclusions. These data suggest that a growth rate of > 2.5 mm/year is a better predictor of hearing loss than the initial tumor size for patients undergoing observation management of VSs < 25 mm in largest diameter.