The authors' objective was 2-fold: 1) to compare outcomes of microsurgical resection for vestibular schwannoma (VS) between patients aged 70 years or older and patients younger than 70 years and 2) to test the hypothesis that symptomatic tumors in elderly patients represent a more aggressive variant of VS than those in younger adults, resulting in increased morbidity and a higher rate of recurrence after subtotal resection (STR).
A retrospective matched cohort study was conducted. Patients aged 70 years or older who had undergone microsurgical resection of VS were matched to adult patients younger than 70 years; the matching was performed on the basis of surgical approach, completeness of resection, and tumor size. Associations between clinical, radiographic, and surgical data and postoperative outcome were analyzed using conditional logistic regression.
Twenty patients aged 70 years or older (mean age ± SD 75.9 ± 5.3, range 70–86 years) were identified and matched to a cohort of younger adult patients (mean age ± SD 55.7 ± 13.8, range 25–69 years). The mean tumor size in both groups was approximately 3 cm. Overall, the elderly patients had a poorer preoperative American Society of Anesthesiology physical status score (p = 0.038), were more likely to report imbalance (OR 9.61, p = 0.016), and more commonly exhibited compromised balance and coordination (OR 9.61, p = 0.016) than patients in the younger cohort.
There were no differences between the 2 cohorts in perioperative complications (p = 0.26) or facial nerve function (p > 0.5) at any time. The elderly patients were 13 times more likely to have long-term postoperative imbalance (OR 13.00, p = 0.013) than the younger patients. Overall, 9 tumors recurred among 32 patients undergoing STR; 6 of these patients underwent additional interventions (stereotactic radiosurgery in 5 patients and microsurgery in 1) and showed no evidence of tumor progression at the last follow-up. The median growth rate of the recurrent tumor in the 6 elderly patients was 4.8 mm/year (range 2.1–14.9 mm/year) and, in the 3 control patients, 2.2 mm/year (range 1.9–4.0 mm/year). Overall, the mortality data showed a trend toward statistical significance (p = 0.068) with a higher risk of death in the elderly.
As the number of elderly patients with VS increases, microsurgical resection will remain an important management option for these patients. Despite a poorer preoperative physical status in elderly patients, their morbidity profiles are similar to those in adult patients younger than 70 years. However, elderly patients may require longer convalescence due to prolonged postoperative imbalance. Not surprisingly, overall diminished functional reserve and advanced comorbidities may increase the mortality risk associated with surgical intervention in the elderly patients. Finally, there was a high risk of further tumor growth following STR in the elderly patients (6 [37.5%] of 16), underscoring the need for close postoperative radiological surveillance and consideration of early stereotactic radiosurgery for the tumor remnant following the STR.