The aim of this study was to describe the symptomatology, radiological features, and surgical treatment of patients with cavernous angiomas within the internal auditory canal (IAC).
The authors reviewed the cases of seven patients with cavernous angiomas in the IAC that had been surgically treated in the 22-year period between 1983 and 2005. All the patients had presented with sensorineural hearing loss, and four suffered from tinnitus. Four patients also reported facial symptoms such as hemispasm or progressive palsy; one of these patients had presented with sudden facial paresis due to intrameatal tumor hemorrhage. According to computed tomography (CT) results, the lesions caused enlargement of the IAC. Interestingly, these same angiomas showed variable features on magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, making their differentiation from intrameatal vestibular schwannomas (VSs) sometimes impossible. In all patients the lesions were totally removed via the suboccipital retrosigmoid approach. They could be dissected away from the facial nerve in five cases, whereas in two cases, because of the location of the lesion, the seventh cranial nerve had to be sectioned and repaired with a sural nerve graft. Transient worsening of seventh cranial nerve symptoms occurred in two patients, with postoperative improvement in each of them. The cochlear nerve could not be functionally preserved because of its extreme adherence to the tumor, although its continuity was preserved in four patients. Complete deafness was the only postoperative complication.
Cavernous angiomas of the IAC are very uncommon lesions that can imitate the symptoms of VSs. Although it is the most sensitive study available, MR imaging does not show sufficiently specific findings to differentiate the two lesion types. Thus, the preoperative diagnosis must be based on patient symptoms plus the CT and MR imaging features.