The reliable preoperative visualization of facial nerve location in relation to vestibular schwannoma (VS) would allow surgeons to plan tumor removal accordingly and may increase the safety of surgery. In this prospective study, the authors attempted to validate the reliability of facial nerve diffusion tensor (DT) imaging–based fiber tracking in a series of patients with large VSs. Furthermore, the authors evaluated the potential of this visualization technique to predict the morphological shape of the facial nerve (tumor compression–related flattening of the nerve).
Diffusion tensor imaging and anatomical images (constructive interference in steady state) were acquired in a series of 22 consecutive patients with large VSs and postprocessed with navigational software to obtain facial nerve fiber tracking. The location of the cerebellopontine angle (CPA) part of the nerve in relation to the tumor was recorded during surgery by the surgeon, who was blinded to the results of the fiber tracking. A correlative analysis was performed of the imaging-based location of the nerve compared with its in situ position in relation to the VS.
Fibers corresponding to the anatomical location and course of the facial nerve from the brainstem to the internal auditory meatus were identified with the DT imaging–based fiber tracking technique in all 22 cases. The location of the CPA segment of the facial nerve in relation to the VS determined during surgery corresponded to the location of the fibers, predicted by the DT imaging–based fiber tracking, in 20 (90.9%) of the 22 patients. No DT imaging–based fiber tracking correlates were found with the 2 morphological types of the nerve (compact or flat).
The current study of patients with large VSs has shown that the position of the facial nerve in relation to the tumor can be predicted reliably (in 91%) using DT imaging–based fiber tracking. These are preliminary results that need further verification in a larger series.
Abbreviations used in this paper: CISS = constructive interference in steady state; CPA = cerebellopontine angle; DT = diffusion tensor; VS = vestibular schwannoma.
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