Abducent nerve schwannomas are extremely rare. The authors recently performed Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) in 4 patients with such tumors and describe their experiences with these cases.
The patients consisted of 3 women and 1 man whose ages varied from 31 to 60 years (mean 46 years). Two patients had no symptoms, 1 complained of slight visual disturbances, and the other 1 had abducent nerve palsy. Neurofibromatosis was not diagnosed in any case. All 4 tumors were located in the cavernous sinus: 2 of these tumors within the borders of the sinus, 1 tumor extending into the orbit, and 1 tumor extending into the prepontine cistern. The volume of the neoplasms varied from 1.7 to 4.9 cm3 (mean 3.0 cm3). No patient underwent tumor resection. Treatment was delivered with the aid of a Leksell Gamma Knife model C unit and the automatic positioning system. The dose directed to the tumor margin was 12 Gy in all cases. The dose directed to the anterior visual pathways was kept below 10 Gy and that to the brainstem below 14 Gy. The length of follow-up varied between 7 and 43 months (mean 27 months).
There were no acute complications or side effects. Imaging studies showed temporary enlargement of all tumors during the 1st posttreatment year, but thereafter, there was a trend toward reduction in volume. None of the neoplasms displayed regrowth. In the 3 patients who did not have abducent nerve palsy before GKS, it appeared, at least temporarily, after the procedure. Purely intracavernous neoplasms in general followed uneventful posttreatment courses, but dumbbell-shaped tumors were associated with significant morbidity. The cisternocavernous schwannoma underwent cystic degeneration 2 years after GKS, and the patient developed diplopia. After GKS, the patient treated for an orbitocavernous schwannoma experienced a significant deterioration in vision, temporary blindness in 1 eye, and late development of permanent abducent nerve palsy, which were seemingly caused by compression of neurovascular structures within the anulus of Zinn during a temporary increase in the lesion's volume after irradiation.
Gamma Knife surgery controls the growth of abducent nerve schwannomas and may be effectively used to manage intracavernous neoplasms. Caution, however, should be used in cases of dumbbell-shaped tumors, particularly those extending through the superior orbital fissure.