Microsurgical removal of glomus jugulare tumors is frequently associated with injury of the lower cranial nerves. To decrease the morbidity associated with tumor management in these patients, gamma knife surgery (GKS) was performed as an alternative to resection.
Between 1990 and 2003, 42 patients underwent GKS as the primary management (19 patients) or for recurrent glomus jugulare tumors (23 patients). Facial weakness and deafness were more common in patients with recurrent tumors than in those in whom primary GKS was performed (48% compared with 11%, p = 0.02). The mean tumor volume was 13.2 cm3; the mean tumor margin dose was 14.9 Gy. The mean follow-up period for the 39 patients in whom evaluation was possible was 44 months (range 6–149 months). After GKS, 12 tumors (31%) decreased in size, 26 (67%) were unchanged, and one (2%) grew. The patient whose tumor grew underwent repeated GKS. Progression-free survival after GKS was 100% at 3 and 7 years, and 75% at 10 years. Six patients (15%) experienced new deficits (hearing loss alone in three, facial numbness and hearing loss in one, vocal cord paralysis and hearing loss in one, and temporary imbalance and/or vertigo in one). In 26 patients in whom hearing could be tested before GKS, hearing preservation was achieved in 86 and 81% at 1 and 4 years posttreatment, respectively. No patient suffered a new lower cranial nerve deficit after one GKS session; the patient in whom repeated GKS was performed experienced a new vocal cord paralysis 1 year after his second procedure.
Gamma knife surgery provided tumor control with a low risk of new cranial nerve injury in early follow-up review. This procedure can be safely used as a primary management tool in patients with glomus jugulare tumors that do not have significant cervical extension, or in patients with recurrent tumors in this location.