Object. Functional results after surgery for acoustic neuromas that have little or no growth within the internal auditory canal are controversial, because these medial tumors can grow to a considerable size within the cerebellopontine angle (CPA) before symptoms occur.
Methods. A prospective study was designed to evaluate the surgical implications of the course of the facial nerve within the CPA on medial acoustic neuromas. This study included a consecutive series of 22 patients with medial acoustic neuromas (mean size 32 mm, range 17–52 mm) who underwent surgery via a suboccipitolateral approach between 1997 and 2001. All patients underwent pre- and postoperative magnetic resonance imaging and preoperative electromyography (EMG). Evaluation was based on continuous intraoperative EMG monitoring and video recordings of the procedure. All patients were reevaluated at a mean of 19 months (6–50 months) postsurgery.
Preoperative evaluation of facial nerve function revealed House—Brackmann Grade I in six, Grade II in 14, and Grade III in two patients. During surgery a distinct splitting of the nerve at the root exit zone through its intracisternal course was seen in eight patients and documented by selective electrical stimulation. The facial nerve was separated into a smaller portion that ran cranially and parallel to the trigeminal nerve, and a larger portion on the anterior tumor surface. Both components joined anterior to the porus without major spreading of the nerve bundle. In two cases the nerve was found on the posterior surface of the cranial tumor. In one case the facial nerve entered the porus of the canal at its lower part, obtaining the expected anatomical position proximally within the middle portion of the canal. An anterior cranial, middle (five cases each), or caudal course (two cases) was seen in the remaining patients. After surgery, facial nerve function deteriorated in most cases; on follow-up evaluation House—Brackmann Grade I was found in 11, Grades II and III in 10, and Grade V in one patient.
Conclusions. The facial nerve requires special attention in surgery for medial acoustic neuromas, because an atypical course of the nerve can be expected in the majority of cases. A split course of the nerve was found in 36% of the cases presented. Meticulous use of intraoperative facial nerve stimulation and continuous monitoring ensures facial nerve integrity and offers good functional results in patients with medial acoustic neuromas.