The aim of this study was to evaluate the incidence, presentation, and treatment outcomes of trigeminal nerve–mediated symptoms secondary to large vestibular schwannomas (VSs) with trigeminal nerve contact. Specifically, the symptomatic results of pain, paresthesias, and numbness after microsurgical resection or stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) were examined.
The authors conducted a retrospective review of a database for concomitant diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia (TN) or trigeminal neuropathy and VS between 1994 and 2014 at a tertiary academic center. All patients with VS with TN or neuropathy were included, with the exception of those patients with neurofibromatosis Type 2 and patients who elected observation. Patient demographic data, symptom evolution, and treatment outcomes were collected. Population data were summarized, and outcome comparisons between microsurgery and SRS were analyzed at last follow-up.
Sixty (2.2%) of 2771 total patients who had large VSs and either TN or neuropathy symptoms met inclusion criteria. The average age of trigeminal symptom onset was 53.6 years (range 24–79 years), the average age at VS diagnosis was 54.4 years (range 25–79 years), and the average follow-up for the microsurgery and SRS groups was 30 and 59 months, respectively (range 3–132 months). Of these patients, 50 (83%) had facial numbness, 16 (27%) had TN pain, and 13 (22%) had paresthesias (i.e., burning or tingling). Subsequently, 50 (83%) patients underwent resection and 10 (17%) patients received SRS.
Treatment of VS with SRS did not improve trigeminal symptoms in any patient. This included 2 subjects with unimproved facial numbness and 4 patients with worsened numbness. Similarly, SRS worsened TN pain and paresthesias in 5 patients and failed to improve pain in 2 additional patients. The Barrow Neurological Institute neuralgia and hypesthesia scale scores were significantly worse for patients undergoing SRS compared with microsurgery.
Resection alleviated facial numbness in 22 (50%) patients, paresthesias in 5 (42%) patients, and TN in 7 (70%) patients. In several patients, surgery was not successful in relieving facial numbness, which failed to improve in 17 (39%) cases and became worse in 5 (11%) cases. Also, surgery did not change the intensity of facial paresthesias or neuralgia in 6 (50%) and 3 (25%) patients, respectively. Microsurgery exacerbated facial paresthesias in 1 (8%) patient but, notably, did not aggravate TN in any patient.
Overall, resection of large VSs provided improved outcomes for patients with concomitant TN, facial paresthesia, and numbness compared with SRS. However, caution should be used when counseling surgical candidates because a number of patients did not experience improvement. This was especially true in patients with preoperative facial numbness and paresthesias, who frequently reported that these symptoms were unchanged following surgery.