The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical features of spinal schwannomas in patients with schwannomatosis and compare them with a large cohort of patients with solitary schwannomas and neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2).
The study was a retrospective review of 831 patients with solitary schwannomas, 65 with schwannomatosis, and 102 with NF2. The clinical, radiographic, and pathological data were extracted with specific attention to the age at onset, location of tumors, initial symptoms, family history, and treatment outcome.
The male-to-female ratio of patients with schwannomatosis (72.3% vs 27.7%) was significantly higher than that of patients with solitary schwannomas (53.3% vs 46.7%) and NF2 (54.0% vs 46.0%), respectively (chi-square test, p = 0.012). The mean age at the first spinal schwannoma operation of patients with NF2 (24.7 ± 10.2 years) was significantly younger than that of patients with solitary schwannomas (44.8 ± 13.2 years) and schwannomatosis (44.4 ± 14.1 years; 1-way ANOVA, p < 0.001). The initial symptoms were similar among the 3 groups, with pain being the most common. The distribution of spinal tumors among the 3 groups was significantly different. The peak locations of spinal schwannomas in patients with solitary schwannomas were at C1–3 and T12–L3; in schwannomatosis, the peak location was at T12-L5. A preferred spinal location was not evident for intradural-extramedullary tumors in NF2. Only a slight prominence in the lumbar area could be observed. The patients in the 3 groups obtained similar benefits from the operation; the recovery rates in the patients with solitary schwannomas, NF2, and schwannomatosis were 50.1%, 38.0%, and 53.9%, respectively. The prognosis varied among spinal schwannomas in the patients with schwannomatosis. Up until the last date of follow-up, most patients with schwannomatosis (81.5%) had undergone a single spinal operation, but 12 patients (18.5%) had undergone multiple spinal operations. Patients with nonsegmental schwannomatosis or those with early onset disease seemed to have a poor prognosis; they were more likely to undergo multiple spinal operations. Small cauda equina nodules were common in patients with schwannomatosis (46.7%) and NF2 (86.9%); these small schwannomas appeared to have relatively static behavior. Two patients suspicious for schwannomatosis were diagnosed with NF2 with the detection of constitutional NF2 mutations; 1 had unilateral vestibular schwannoma, and the other had suspicious bilateral trigeminal schwannomas.
The clinical features of spinal schwannomas vary among patients with solitary schwannomas, NF2, and schwannomatosis. Spinal schwannomas of patients with NF2 appear to be more aggressive than those in patients with solitary schwannomas and schwannomatosis. Spinal schwannomas of schwannomatosis predominate in the lumbar area, and most of them can be treated successfully with surgery. The prognosis varies among spinal schwannomas of schwannomatosis; some patients may need multiple operations due to newly developed schwannomas. Sometimes, it is difficult to differentiate schwannomatosis from NF2 based on clinical manifestations. It is prudent to perform close follow-up examinations in patients with undetermined schwannomatosis and their offspring.