Management of small acoustic neuromas (ANs) consists of 3 options: observation with imaging follow-up, radiosurgery, and/or tumor removal. The authors report the long-term outcomes and preservation of function after retrosigmoid tumor removal in 44 patients and clarify the management paradigm for small ANs.
A total of 44 consecutively enrolled patients with small ANs and preserved hearing underwent retrosigmoid tumor removal in an attempt to preserve hearing and facial function by use of intraoperative auditory monitoring of auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) and cochlear nerve compound action potentials (CNAPs). All patients were younger than 70 years of age, had a small AN (purely intracanalicular/cerebellopontine angle tumor ≤ 15 mm), and had serviceable hearing preoperatively. According to the guidelines of the Committee on Hearing and Equilibrium of the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, preoperative hearing levels of the 44 patients were as follows: Class A, 19 patients; Class B, 17; and Class C, 8. The surgical technique for curative tumor removal with preservation of hearing and facial function included sharp dissection and debulking of the tumor, reconstruction of the internal auditory canal, and wide removal of internal auditory canal dura.
For all patients, tumors were totally removed without incidence of facial palsy, death, or other complications. Total tumor removal was confirmed by the first postoperative Gd-enhanced MRI performed 12 months after surgery. Postoperative hearing levels were Class A, 5 patients; Class B, 21; Class C, 11; and Class D, 7. Postoperatively, serviceable (Class A, B, or C) and useful (Class A or B) levels of hearing were preserved for 84% and 72% of patients, respectively. Better preoperative hearing resulted in higher rates of postoperative hearing preservation (p = 0.01); preservation rates were 95% among patients with preoperative Class A hearing, 88% among Class B, and 50% among Class C. Reliable monitoring was more frequently provided by CNAPs than by ABRs (66% vs 32%, p < 0.01), and consistently reliable auditory monitoring was significantly associated with better rates of preservation of useful hearing. Long-term follow-up by MRI with Gd administration (81 ± 43 months [range 5–181 months]; median 7 years) showed no tumor recurrence, and although the preserved hearing declined minimally over the long-term postoperative follow-up period (from 39 ± 15 dB to 45 ± 11 dB in 5.1 ± 3.1 years), 80% of useful hearing and 100% of serviceable hearing remained at the same level.
As a result of a surgical technique that involved sharp dissection and internal auditory canal reconstruction with intraoperative auditory monitoring, retrosigmoid removal of small ANs can lead to successful curative tumor removal without long-term recurrence and with excellent functional outcome. Thus, the authors suggest that tumor removal should be the first-line management strategy for younger patients with small ANs and preserved hearing.