The aim of this study was to explore the efficacy and safety of stereotactic radiosurgery for patients with facial nerve schwannomas (FNSs).
This study was a multiinstitutional retrospective analysis of 42 patients with FNSs treated with Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) at 1 of 10 medical centers of the Japan Leksell Gamma Knife Society (JLGK1301). The median age of the patients was 50 years. Twenty-nine patients underwent GKS as the initial treatment, and 13 patients had previously undergone surgery. At the time of the GKS, 33 (79%) patients had some degree of facial palsy, and 21 (50%) did not retain serviceable hearing. Thirty-five (83%) tumors were solid, and 7 (17%) had cystic components. The median tumor volume was 2.5 cm3, and the median prescription dose to the tumor margin was 12 Gy.
The median follow-up period was 48 months. The last follow-up images showed partial remission in 23 patients and stable tumors in 19 patients. Only 1 patient experienced tumor progression at 60 months, but repeat GKS led to tumor shrinkage. The actuarial 3- and 5-year progression-free survival rates were 100% and 92%, respectively. During the follow-up period, 8 patients presented with newly developed or worsened preexisting facial palsy. The condition was transient in 3 of these patients. At the last clinical follow-up, facial nerve function improved in 8 (19%) patients, remained stable in 29 (69%), and worsened in 5 (12%; House-Brackmann Grade III in 4 patients, Grade IV in 1 patient). With respect to hearing function, 18 (90%) of 20 evaluated patients with a pure tone average of ≤ 50 dB before treatment retained serviceable hearing.
GKS is a safe and effective treatment option for patients with either primary or residual FNSs. All patients, including 1 patient who required repeat GKS, achieved good tumor control at the last follow-up. The incidence of newly developed or worsened preexisting facial palsy was 12% at the last clinical follow-up. In addition, the risk of hearing deterioration as an adverse effect of radiation was low. These results suggest that GKS is a safe alternative to resection.