✓ Microsurgical techniques have made it possible to identify and preserve the cochlear nerve from its origin at the brain stem and along its course through the internal auditory canal in patients undergoing removal of small or medium-sized acoustic neuromas or other cerebellopontine angle (CPA) tumors. In a consecutive series of 100 patients with such tumors operated on between 1975 and 1981, an attempt was made to preserve the cochlear nerve in 23. The decision to attempt to preserve hearing was based on tumor size and the degree of associated hearing loss. In cases of unilateral acoustic neuroma, the criteria for attempted preservation of hearing were tumor size (2.5 cm or less), speech reception threshold (50 dB or less), and speech discrimination score (60% or greater). In patients with bilateral acoustic neuromas or tumors of other types, the size and hearing criteria were significantly broadened. All patients were operated on through a suboccipital approach.
Hearing was preserved postoperatively in six (31.6%) of the 19 patients with unilateral acoustic neuromas, although the cochlear nerve was preserved in 16. Of the six patients with postoperative hearing, three retained excellent hearing, and the other three had only sound awareness and poor discrimination. Hearing was preserved in three cases with other CPA tumors, including an epidermoid cyst and small petrous meningiomas in the internal auditory canal. Of the two cases with bilateral tumors, hearing was preserved in one. Of the 23 patients in whom hearing preservation was attempted, nine (39.1%) had some postoperative hearing, which in six was equal to or better than the preoperative level. Thus, it is worthwhile to attempt hearing preservation in selected patients with CPA tumors.