Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) for vestibular schwannomas has evolved and improved over time. Although early short-term follow-up reports suggest that fractionation yields hearing preservation rates equivalent to modern single-dose SRS techniques, significant questions remain regarding long-term tumor control after the use of fractionation in a late responding tumor with a low proliferative index and α/β ratio. With single-dose SRS, critical hearing preservation variables include: 1) strict attention to prescription dose 3D conformality so that the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) receives ≤ 9 Gy; 2) careful delineation of the 3D tumor margin to exclude the cochlear nerve when visualizable with contrast-enhanced T2-weighted MR volumetric imaging techniques and exclusion the dura mater of the anterior border of the internal auditory canal; 3) a tumor margin dose prescription ≤ 12 Gy; 4) optimization of the tumor treatment gradient index without sacrificing coverage and conformality; and 5) strict attention to prescription dose 3D conformality so that the modiolus and the basal turn of the cochlea receive the lowest possible dose (ideally < 4–5.33 Gy). Testable correlates for the relative importance of the VCN versus cochlear dose given the tonotopic organization of each structure suggests that VCN toxicity should lead to preferential loss of low hearing frequencies, while cochlear toxicity should lead to preferential loss of high hearing frequencies. The potential after SRS for hearing toxicity from altered endolymph and/or perilymph fluid dynamics either via impaired fluid production and/or absorption has yet to be explored. Serous otitis media, ossicular or temporal bone osteonecrosis, and chondromalacia are not likely to be relevant factors or considerations for hearing preservation after SRS.
Abbreviations used in this paper: DCN = dorsal cochlear nucleus; GKS = Gamma Knife surgery; IAC = internal auditory canal; SRS = stereotactic radiosurgery; VCN = ventral cochlear nucleus; VS = vestibular schwannoma.
Address correspondence to: Mark E. Linskey, M.D., Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California, Irvine Medical Center, 101 The City Drive South, Building 56, Suite 400, ZOT 5397, Orange, California 92868. email:
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