Meningiomas confined to the cavernous sinus (MCSs) are benign tumors. Due to the high risk of severe complications, the intracavernous surgical procedure was abandoned in favor of radiotherapy. However, the choice of treatment remains complicated due to the fact that the natural history of this lesion has not yet been described.
The authors studied the natural history of this lesion using a prospective series of 53 consecutive patients suffering from MCSs. The median follow-up duration was 10.2 years (range 2–25 years), from 1990 to 2016.
Patients ranged in age from 30 to 72 years (mean 53 years). The meningiomas were diagnosed by major symptoms (mainly oculomotor palsy and neuralgia experienced in 28 patients), minor symptoms (headache, intermittent diplopia in 15 patients), or incidental findings (10 patients). Simple symptomatic treatment (short courses of corticosteroids and carbamazepine) allowed patients to become asymptomatic in 19 (67.9%) of 28 cases experiencing major symptoms, and for 12 (80%) of 15 patients with initial minor symptoms (p < 0.0001). All patients with incidental findings remained asymptomatic. Forty four (83%) of 53 MCSs did not show any significant growth and 42 (80%) of 53 patients were not symptomatic at the end of follow-up (p < 0.001). The radiographic progression-free survival rates (± SD) at 5, 10, and 20 years were 90% ± 4.2%, 82% ± 5.7%, and 70% ± 10.2%, respectively. Five patients (9.4%) with no evidence of any effect of the initial medical treatment desired additional conventional radiation therapy.
Because of the capricious, unpredictable, and slow growth of MCSs, together with high growth variability from one patient to the next, the symptomatic medical treatment of these tumors is a highly effective method. This series shows that these lesions are naturally, clinically, and radiologically indolent.