Leksell Top 25 - Vestibular Schwannoma

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Wait-and-see strategy compared with proactive Gamma Knife surgery in patients with intracanalicular vestibular schwannomas

Clinical article

Jean Régis, Romain Carron, Michael C. Park, Outouma Soumare, Christine Delsanti, Jean Marc Thomassin, and Pierre-Hugues Roche


The roles of the wait-and-see strategy and proactive Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) in the treatment paradigm for small intracanalicular vestibular schwannomas (VSs) is still a matter of debate, especially when patients present with functional hearing. The authors compare these 2 methods.


Forty-seven patients (22 men and 25 women) harboring an intracanalicular VS were followed prospectively. The mean age of the patients at the time of inclusion was 54.4 years (range 20–71 years). The mean follow-up period was 43.8 ± 40 months (range 9–222 months). Failure was defined as significant tumor growth and/or hearing deterioration that required microsurgical or radiosurgical treatment. This population was compared with a control group of 34 patients harboring a unilateral intracanalicular VS who were consecutively treated by GKS and had functional hearing at the time of radiosurgery.


Of the 47 patients in the wait-and-see group, treatment failure (tumor growth requiring treatment) was observed in 35 patients (74%), although conservative treatment is still ongoing for 12 patients. Treatment failure in the control (GKS) group occurred in only 1 (3%) of 34 patients. In the wait-and-see group, there was no change in tumor size in 10 patients (21%), tumor growth in 36 patients (77%), and a mild decrease in tumor size in 1 patient (2%). Forty patients in the wait-and-see group were available for a hearing level study, which demonstrated no change in Gardner-Robertson hearing class for 24 patients (60%). Fifteen patients (38%) experienced more than 10 db of hearing loss and 2 of them became deaf. At 3, 4, and 5 years, the useful hearing preservation rates were 75%, 52%, and 41% in the wait-and-see group and 77%, 70%, and 64% in the control group, respectively. Thus, the chances of maintaining functional hearing and avoiding further intervention were much higher in cases treated by GKS (79% and 60% at 2 and 5 years, respectively) than in cases managed by the wait-and-see strategy (43% and 14% at 2 and 5 years, respectively).


These data indicate that the wait-and-see policy exposes the patient to elevated risks of tumor growth and degradation of hearing. Both events may occur independently in the mid-term period. This information must be presented to the patient. A careful sequential follow-up may be adopted when the wait-and-see strategy is chosen, but proactive GKS is recommended when hearing is still useful at the time of diagnosis. This recommendation may be a main paradigm shift in the practice of treating intracanalicular VSs.

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Functional outcome after gamma knife surgery or microsurgery for vestibular schwannomas

Jean Régis, William Pellet, Christine Delsanti, Henry Dufour, Pierre Hughes Roche, Jean Marc Thomassin, Michel Zanaret, and Jean Claude Peragut

Object. Microsurgical excision is an established treatment for vestibular schwannoma (VS). In 1992 the authors used a patient questionnaire to evaluate the functional outcome and quality of life in a series of 224 consecutive patients. In addition, starting with gamma knife surgery (GKS) in 1992, the authors decided to use the same methodology to evaluate prospectively the results of this modality to compare the two alternatives.

Methods. Among the 500 patients who were included prospectively, the authors only evaluated patients in whom GKS was the primary treatment for unilateral VS. Four years of follow up was available for the first 104 consecutive patients. Statistical analysis of the GKS and microsurgery populations has shown that only a comparison of Stage II and III (according to the Koos classification) was meaningful in terms of group size and preoperative risk factor distribution. Objective results and questionnaire answers from the first 97 consecutive patients were compared with the 110 patients in the microsurgery group who fulfilled the inclusion criteria.

Questionnaire answers indicated that 100% of patients who underwent GKS compared with 63% of patients who underwent microsurgery had no new facial motor disturbance. Forty-nine percent of patients who underwent GKS (17% in the microsurgery study) had no ocular symptoms, and 91% of patients treated with GKS (61% in the microsurgery study) had no functional deterioration after treatment. The mean hospitalization stay was 3 days after GKS and 23 days after microsurgery. All the patients who underwent GKS who had been employed, except one, had kept the same professional activity (56% in the microsurgery study). The mean time away from work was 7 days for GKS (130 days in the microsurgery study). Among patients whose preoperative hearing level was Class 1 according to the Gardner and Robertson scale, 70% preserved functional hearing after GKS (Class 1 or 2) compared with only 37.5% in the microsurgery group.

Conclusions. Functional side effects happen during the first 2 years after radiosurgery. Findings after 4 years of follow up indicated that GKS provided better functional outcomes than microsurgery in this patient series.