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J Neurosurg. 2010 Dec;113 Suppl:112-21.

Large vestibular schwannomas treated by Gamma Knife surgery: long-term outcomes.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Neurological Institute, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.



Although radiosurgery has been well accepted as a treatment for small- to medium-sized vestibular schwannomas (VSs), its application in the treatment of large VSs remains controversial because of unfavorable effects such as tumor swelling and potential compression of the brainstem. The authors present a retrospective study spanning 17 years, during which 21 patients underwent Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) for large VSs. Long-term outcomes are reported, and possible factors affecting tumor responses to GKS are analyzed.


Five hundred thirteen patients harboring VSs underwent GKS between March 1993 and October 2009. A large VS was defined as a tumor whose diameter was > 3 cm. This paper focuses on 21 patients who harbored large VSs ranging in volume from 12.7 to 25.2 cm(3) (mean 17.3 cm(3)) and were treated by GKS. Fourteen of these patients had undergone 1 or more craniotomies previously to remove the tumor. Seven patients underwent GKS alone because of patient preference or a poor clinical condition that precluded microsurgery with general anesthesia. The mean radiation dose directed to the tumor ranged from 15 to 17.5 Gy. The mean radiation dose prescribed to the tumor margin was 11.9 Gy (range 11-14 Gy). The mean follow-up period was 66 months (range 12-155 months), and the median follow-up period was 53 months.


The tumor control rate was 90.5% (19 of 21 lesions). No deterioration in facial nerve or trigeminal nerve function was noted. Disturbances in balance (some temporary) occurred in 5 patients. Three of the 21 patients developed initial tumor swelling, which required minor surgical interventions, including aspiration using an Ommaya reservoir or placement of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt. All 3 patients recovered satisfactorily after aspiration of an enlarging cyst or ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement. There was no significant correlation between tumor control and the following factors: patient age or sex, tumor volume, radiation dose, previous operation, presence of brainstem compression, petrous bone invasion, T2 signal ratio between tumor and brainstem, and presence of a cyst. However, there was a significant correlation between the T2 signal ratio between tumor and brainstem and the duration of tumor swelling (p = 0.003).


Treatment of large VSs remains a challenge to neurosurgeons regardless of whether they perform microsurgery or radiosurgery. Control of tumor growth and preservation of neurological function are the main goals of treatment. Although delayed microsurgery was required in 2 patients (9.5%), the satisfactory tumor control rate and excellent preservation of facial and trigeminal nerve function are the great advantages of radiosurgery. Radiosurgery is not only a practical treatment for patients with small- to medium-sized VSs, but it is also an excellent tool for treating larger tumors up to 25 cm(3). In selected cases, radiosurgery plays an important role in treating large VSs with satisfactory results.

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