Object. Endolymphatic sac tumors (ELSTs), which often are associated with von Hippel—Lindau (VHL) disease, cause irreversible hearing loss and vestibulopathy. Clinical and imaging surveillance protocols provide new insights into the natural history, mechanisms of symptom formation, and indications for the treatment of ELSTs. To clarify the uncertainties associated with the pathophysiology and treatment of ELSTs, the authors describe a series of patients with VHL disease in whom serial examinations recorded the development of ELSTs.
Methods. Patients with VHL disease were included if serial clinical and imaging studies captured the development of ELSTs, and the patients underwent tumor resection. The patients' clinical, audiological, and imaging characteristics as well as their operative results were analyzed.
Five consecutive patients (three men and two women) with a mean age at surgery of 34.8 years and a follow-up period of 6 to 18 months were included in this study. Audiovestibular symptoms were present in three patients before a tumor was evident on neuroimaging. Imaging evidence of an intralabyrinthine hemorrhage coincided with a loss of hearing in three patients. Successful resection of the ELSTs was accomplished by performing a retrolabyrinthine posterior petrosectomy (RLPP). Hearing stabilized and vestibular symptoms resolved after surgery in all patients. No patient has experienced a recurrence.
Conclusions. Audiovestibular symptoms, including hearing loss, in patients with VHL disease can be the result of microscopic ELSTs. Once an ELST has been detected, it can be completely resected via an RLPP with preservation of hearing and amelioration of vestibular symptoms. Early detection and surgical treatment of small ELSTs, when hearing is still present, should reduce the incidence and severity of hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, and cranial nerve dysfunction, which are associated with these tumors.