Surgical manipulation of the fifth cranial nerve during its intra- or extracranial course may lead to bradycardia or even asystole as well as arterial hypotension, a phenomenon described as the trigeminocardiac reflex (TCR). The authors studied the impact of this reflex on postoperative auditory function in patients undergoing vestibular schwannoma (VS) surgery.
One hundred patients scheduled for VS surgery were studied prospectively for parameters influencing the postoperative auditory function. The evaluation included sex, age, pre- and postoperative auditory function, preoperative mean arterial blood pressure, preoperative medical diseases or medication (for example, antiarrhythmia drugs), tumor size and localization, and the intraoperative occurrence of the TCR.
The TCR, which occurred in 11% of the patients, influenced the postoperative hearing function in the patients with Hannover Class T3 and T4 VSs.
With an overall hearing preservation of 47%, 11.1% of the patients in the TCR group and 51.4% of those in the non-TCR group experienced preserved hearing function postoperatively. In cases involving larger tumors (Hannover Class T3 and T4), an intraoperative TCR was associated with a significantly worse postoperative hearing function during VS surgery (p = 0.005).
The hypotension following TCR is a negative prognostic factor for hearing preservation in patients undergoing VS surgery. Patients’ knowledge of this can be increased pre- and postoperatively. Further study of this phenomenon will advance the understanding of the underlying mechanisms and may help to improve hearing preservation by controlling the occurrence of the TCR.