Neurology India
menu-bar5 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus
  Users online: 5502  
 Home | Login 
About Editorial board Articlesmenu-bullet NSI Publicationsmenu-bullet Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Videos Etcetera Contact
  Navigate Here 
 Resource Links
  »  Similar in PUBMED
 »  Search Pubmed for
 »  Search in Google Scholar for
 »Related articles
  »  Article in PDF (821 KB)
  »  Citation Manager
  »  Access Statistics
  »  Reader Comments
  »  Email Alert *
  »  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this Article
 »  Abstract
 »  Materials and Me...
 » Results
 » Discussion
 » Conclusion
 »  References
 »  Article Figures
 »  Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded51    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal


Table of Contents    
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 67  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 1274-1278

Microsurgery of Vestibular Schwannoma Post-radiosurgery

Department of Neurosurgery, P.D. Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Center, Mahim, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication19-Nov-2019

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Basant Kumar Misra
Department of Neurosurgery, P.D. Hinduja Hospital and MRC, Mahim, Mumbai - 400 050, Maharashtra
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.271243

Rights and Permissions

 » Abstract 

Objectives: Microsurgery of vestibular schwannoma (VS) after radiosurgery is not common. In this study, we analyze nerve functional outcomes and technical challenges associated with the microsurgery following radiosurgery of VS.
Materials and Methods: Sixteen patients underwent microsurgery at an average of 37 months (range 3-96 months) after radiosurgery. Indications of surgery included tumour progression or clinical worsening. Twelve of them had never undergone microsurgery before radiosurgery, and three had partial excision before radiosurgery. Maximum tumour diameter of all patients ranged from 23 to 51 mm, of which four were giant tumours. Operative findings and post-microsurgery clinical course, imaging and outcome were analysed.
Results: The tumours found at surgery were firmer, with an avascular core but increased vascularity near the surface. There were thickened arachnoid and often adhesions with surrounding structures making total excision difficult. Near total excision was employed in such cases. Eleven patients underwent gross total/near total resection. No major morbidity or death was reported. Post-surgery, eight patients had grade I/II HB facial function, four had grades III and three had grades IV/V. Of the last three, two had the same deficit preoperatively. At the last follow-up (average 50 months), all patients had a stable facial function. None of the patients have undergone any further radiosurgery/microsurgery since the last intervention.
Conclusion: For the few patients who require microsurgery after radiosurgery, excellent tumour resection with an acceptable outcome can be achieved with proper techniques and neuromonitoring. Leaving tiny residue attached to critical structures is the key to an optimal outcome.

Keywords: Gamma knife radiosurgery, microsurgery, salvage surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, vestibular schwannoma
Key Message:

  • Microsurgery for VS has progressed from total excision of the tumour to preservation of the nerve function.
  • SRS has become an exciting option for small- and medium-sized tumours.
  • It poses unique challenges to the operating microsurgeon when SRS fails.
  • Excellent tumour resection with an acceptable outcome can be achieved with proper and neuromonitoring.
  • Leaving tiny residue attached to critical structures is the key to optimal outcome.

How to cite this article:
Misra BK, Churi ON. Microsurgery of Vestibular Schwannoma Post-radiosurgery. Neurol India 2019;67:1274-8

How to cite this URL:
Misra BK, Churi ON. Microsurgery of Vestibular Schwannoma Post-radiosurgery. Neurol India [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Jun 23];67:1274-8. Available from:

Microsurgery for vestibular schwannoma (VS) has progressed from total excision of the tumour at any cost to the preservation of the nerve function as the primary goal.[1],[2],[3] Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) has become an exciting option for small- and medium-sized tumours. Multiple modalities such as Gamma Knife, CyberKnife, X-knife, Novalis, or proton beam therapy are available.[4] Gamma Knife Radiosurgery (GKRS) is part of a standard treatment regimen for VS at multiple neurosurgical units worldwide.[5],[6],[7],[8]

GKRS achieves excellent control of the tumour in more than 90% of patients. Therefore, microsurgery for the recurrent tumour post-GKRS is uncommon, and constitutes <5%.[5],[9],[10],[11] However, as and when it needs to be performed, it poses unique challenges to the operating microsurgeon due to structural changes and adhesions with the surrounding structures.[2],[12],[13],[14] As a neurosurgical team which specializes in the management of VS and performs both microsurgery and GKRS, the authors analyze the technical challenges and neurological outcomes associated with microsurgery of recurrent VS following radiosurgery.

 » Materials and Methods Top

A retrospective analysis was performed of the patients who underwent microsurgery at a single institution for recurrent VS post radiosurgery or a radiotherapy procedure between 1997 and 2017. The preoperative data, intraoperative findings, and post-operative outcomes were analyzed. House-Brackmann grading was used to evaluate the preoperative and post-operative facial nerve function.[15] The study comprised 16 patients with VS. [Table 1] There were eight males and eight females, age ranged from 33 to 81 years, with an average age of 52.6 years. Seven of these patients had tumour on the right side, while eight had on the left. One patient had bilateral VS, of which the right side was operated. Four patients had giant tumours (>4 cm), while eleven had large tumours (2.5-4 cm). One patient had a size of 2.3 cm.
Table 1: Demographics of the patient, size of the tumour, the clinical findings of facial and vestibulocochlear nerve

Click here to view

Three patients had been operated once first, followed by radiosurgery [Figure 1]. There was one patient who had undergone two surgeries before receiving radiosurgery. Twelve patients had only radiosurgery before the current microsurgery. Of these, one had received Cyber knife therapy, and one had X-knife elsewhere. Nine patients had previous radiosurgery in our institute and seven had elsewhere. The median prescribed dose for Gamma Knife was 13 Gy at 50% isodose. The median interval between radiosurgery and surgical resection was 37 months (range of 3-96 months). The smallest tumour operated had a maximum dimension of 2.3 cm, while the largest was 5.1 cm, with an average diameter of 3.4 cm.
Figure 1: A case of Right Vestibular Schwannoma (a and b). Patient was operated via a right suboccipital craniotomy, and then followed-up. Small residual lesion seen at the first follow-up and was treated by GKRS (c and d). After 5 years of follow-up, patient became symptomatic, with the imaging showing a significant increase in the size of the tumour (e and f). Patient underwent salvage surgery. The immediate post-operative CT scan (g and h)

Click here to view

The approach for all the patients was the standard retrosigmoid suboccipital craniotomy under the cover of facial nerve monitoring. Tumour was decompressed internally as much as feasible, decompressing the cerebellum and the brainstem. The internal auditory canal was drilled to about 6-7 mm. Near total, subtotal and partial excision was defined as more than 95%, 90%-95% and <90%. The average follow-up period after surgical resection was 50 months. Follow-up magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed at 3-month post-operative and then every year. Indications of surgery were tumour enlargement with stable symptoms in ten patients and tumour enlargement with new or increased symptoms in six patients.

 » Results Top

Pre-operative function

All the patients in the series had a non-serviceable hearing at the time of surgery. The symptoms included facial numbness, recurrence or onset of appendicular cerebellar signs, or involvement of lower cranial nerves. The status of the facial nerve before the current surgery was House-Brackmann (HB) grade I/II in 13 patients, grade III in one and grade IV/V in two.

Operative findings

The tumours found at surgery were firmer, with an avascular core but increased vascularity near the surface. The tumour-arachnoid plane was indistinct with thickened arachnoid and often adhesions with surrounding structures making total excision difficult in 12 patients. Interestingly, a moderately good plane of dissection was observed in four. There were fibrous changes of the tumour mass, cyst formation and brownish-yellow or purple discoloration of the tumour capsule. Severe adhesions between the tumour capsule and cranial nerves, vessels, and the brainstem were observed in eight. Twelve patients underwent gross total or near-total resection.

Functional outcome

Facial function

Post-surgery, nine patients had grade I/II HB facial function, four had grades III, and three had grades IV/V. Of the latter three, two had the same deficit preoperatively. There was no associated mortality or morbidity. There was no significant difference in facial nerve preservation between those with failed radiosurgery, and those with surgery plus failed radiosurgery. At the last follow-up (average 50 months), all patients had a stable facial function.

Hearing function: None of the patients in our series had a serviceable hearing at the time of salvage surgery.

Tumor control

At the follow-up post-salvage surgery, 12 patients had no enhancing lesion on the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the residual tumour was sub-centimeter in two, while in another two it was about a centimetre (in one dimension), unchanged over the follow-up period. None of the patients have undergone any other radiosurgery/microsurgery since the last intervention.

 » Discussion Top

VS are benign tumours with a slow growth rate. The patients were commonly present with the classic triad of sensorineural hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo. Some patients may present with trigeminal symptoms of numbness and lower cranial nerve symptoms.[16] The rate of recurrence after complete excision is 0.5%-9.2%, and increases to about 44% in incomplete removal after a mean follow-up of about 6 years.[16],[17],[18] SRS is an accepted mode of management for small tumours and residual/recurrent tumours following microsurgery with excellent tumour control. Microsurgery and radiosurgery are the treatment options for the rare tumours that tend to grow following radiosurgery.[16],[19]

Microsurgery following radiosurgery


VS tend to expand in size for variable intervals post-radiosurgery. The duration between the radiosurgery and the salvage surgery thus becomes important. Although more than half of these tumours decrease in the first year, about one-tenth stay large even after 5 years of surgery. The indications of microsurgery in these patients are clinical worsening and cyst formation, both of which tend to aggravate the symptoms.[12],[13],[20],[21],[22]

Challenges during microsurgery[21],[22],[23],[24],[25]

The biggest challenge for a neurosurgeon while operating on VS, post-radiosurgery, is the fibrosis and adhesions with the surrounding structures, especially with the brainstem and the facial nerve. In delayed surgery, post-radiosurgery, the arachnoid is thickened, and there is a pial breach in the brainstem. The best outcome is therefore achieved by not attempting to remove the last vestige of the tumour, especially when adhesions with critical structures are encountered. In a few patients, however, no adhesions have been reported and there was good plane between the tumour.[13],[14],[21],[22],[23] Pollock et al. operated on 13 patients and took surgeons' opinions about the difficulty level they faced while operating on tumours post-surgery and GKRS. It was found to be difficult in eight patients, similar in four and easy in one.[21] Most surgeons prefer a retrosigmoid approach for primary removal of a VS. In a recurrent or salvage surgery, a different approach like translabyrinthine approach is used by some surgeons to avoid adhesions, scar tissue, and altered surrounding anatomy. The authors of this paper, however, prefer the retrosigmoid approach for both the primary as well as salvage surgery.

Facial nerve function

In our series, it was found that the preoperative facial function was one of the critical parameters in predicting the post-operative facial nerve outcome. Nine patients had some worsening of the facial function: five had complete excision and four had a small residue. Eight patients in our series had tumours with significant amount of adhesions with the facial nerve, four of which showed a worsening of the facial function in spite of leaving a small residue behind. The hearing was affected in all the patients in our series. Most of the series also consisted of patients with a non-serviceable hearing at the time of salvage surgery. Iwai et al. reported that the facial nerve dysfunction and trigeminal neuropathy recovered in some patients post-salvage surgery, and attributed it to the compression rather than the radiation.[22] Also, it has been reported that the facial nerve outcome is poorer in patients who have undergone microsurgery prior to radiosurgery as compared with those who have undergone only radiosurgery.[13] Most of the series show a moderate degree of facial nerve preservation after salvage surgery. An attempt to achieve gross total removal is associated with a poorer outcome while a conservative approach preserves the facial function better.[2],[12],[13],[14],[19],[20],[22]

Iwai et al. reported a facial nerve preservation rate of 88% with deterioration of nerve function in two of the 17 patients with one patient developing facial spasm.[22] Pollock et al. reported a good tumour excision in 11 of their 13 patients with a facial nerve HB function of I/II in three patients and III/IV in another three. Seven patients had grade VI HB function.[21] Samii et al. reported their results with 53 patients who were operated for unilateral VSs following previous intervention. Seventeen of these had received pre-GKRS microsurgery, while the rest had not received any radiosurgery. These were in turn compared to a control group of 30 patients who were not reoperated. They concluded that tumour size and preoperative facial function were good indicators of the post-operative outcome.[13] A comparative data of the studies discussed in the article with respect to the number of involved patients; the facial nerve preservation rates and the extent of tumour resection have been shown in [Table 2].
Table 2: Comparative data of the number of patients, the rate of facial nerve preservation and the resection of tumour (percentages in brackets)

Click here to view

 » Conclusion Top

Patients with VS who fail SRS with either tumour progression or worsening of clinical symptoms will occasionally need microsurgery. At operation, the tumours have a vascular capsule, avascular core and an increased rate of adhesions to the neurovascular structures making the salvage surgery of radiation-failed tumours more difficult. However, adequate tumour resection with an acceptable outcome can be achieved with proper technique and neuromonitoring. Leaving a tiny residue attached to critical structures is the key to optimal outcome.


  • Microsurgery for VS has progressed from total excision of the tumour to the preservation of the nerve function
  • SRS has become an exciting option for small- and medium-sized tumours
  • It poses unique challenges to the operating microsurgeon
  • Excellent tumour resection with an acceptable outcome can be achieved with proper technique and neuromonitoring
  • Leaving the tiny residue attached to critical structures is the key to the optimal outcomes.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 » References Top

Zanoletti E, Faccioli C, Martini A. Surgical treatment of acoustic neuroma: Outcomes and Indications. Rep Pract Oncol Radiother 2016;21:395-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
Lee CC, Wu HM, Chung WY, Chen CJ, Pan DH, Hsu SP. Microsurgery for vestibular schwannoma after Gamma Knife surgery: Challenges and treatment strategies. J Neurosurg 2014;121(Suppl):150-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
Gerganov VM, Giordano M, Samii M, Samii A. Diffusion tensor imaging-based fiber tracking for prediction of the position of the facial nerve in relation to large vestibular schwannomas. J Neurosurg 2011;115:1087-93.  Back to cited text no. 3
Kondziolka D, Mousavi SH, Kano H, Flickinger JC, Lunsford LD. The newly diagnosed vestibular schwannoma: Radiosurgery, resection, or observation? Neurosurgical Focus 2012;33:E8.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hasegawa T, Kida Y, Kobayashi T, Yoshimoto M, Mori Y, Yoshida J. Long-term outcomes in patients with vestibular schwannomas treated using gamma knife surgery: 10-year follow up. J Neurosurg 2005;102:10-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
Leksell L. A note on the treatment of acoustic tumours. Acta Chir Scand 1971;137:763-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
Linskey ME. Stereotactic radiosurgery versus stereotactic radiotherapy for patients with vestibular schwannoma: A Leksell Gamma Knife Society 2000 debate. J Neurosurg 2000;93(Suppl):390-5.  Back to cited text no. 7
Petit JH, Hudes RS, Chen TT, Eisenberg HM, Simard JM, Chin LS. Reduced-dose radiosurgery for vestibular schwannomas. Neurosurgery 2001;49:1299-307.  Back to cited text no. 8
Chung WY, Liu KD, Shiau CY, Wu HM, Wang LW, Guo WY, et al. Gamma knife surgery for vestibular schwannoma: 10-year experience of 195 cases. J Neurosurg 2005;102(Suppl):87-96.  Back to cited text no. 9
Flickinger JC, Kondziolka D, Niranjan A, Maitz A, Voynov G, Lunsford LD. Acoustic neuroma radiosurgery with marginal tumor doses of 12 to 13 Gy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2004;60:225-30.  Back to cited text no. 10
Misra BK, Purandare HP, Ved RS, Bagadia AA, Mare PB. Current treatment strategy in the management of vestibular schwannoma. Neurol India 2009;57:257-63.  Back to cited text no. 11
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Slattery WH 3rd. Microsurgery after radiosurgery or radiotherapy for vestibular schwannomas. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 2009;42:707-15.  Back to cited text no. 12
Samii M, Metwali H, Gerganov VM. Microsurgical treatment of vestibular schwannoma after failed previous surgery. J Neurosurg 2016;125:1198-1203.  Back to cited text no. 13
Shuto T, Inomori S, Matsunaga S, Fujino H. Microsurgery for vestibular schwannoma after gamma knife radiosurgery. Acta Neurochir (Wien) 2008;150:229-34.  Back to cited text no. 14
House JW, Brackmann DE. Facial nerve grading system. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1985;93:146-7.  Back to cited text no. 15
Matthies C, Samii M. Management of 1000 vestibular schwannomas (acoustic neuromas): Clinical presentation. Neurosurg 1997;40:1-9.  Back to cited text no. 16
El-Kashlan HK, Zeitoun H, Arts HA, Hoff JT, Telian SA. Recurrence of acoustic neuroma after incomplete resection. Am J Otol 2000;21:389-92.  Back to cited text no. 17
Samii M, Gerganov VM, Samii A. Functional outcome after complete surgical removal of giant vestibular schwannomas. J Neurosurg 2010;112:860-7.  Back to cited text no. 18
Pollock BE. Management of vestibular schwannomas that enlarge after stereotactic radiosurgery: Treatment recommendations based on a 15-year experience. Neurosurgery 2006;58:241-8.  Back to cited text no. 19
Friedman RA, Berliner KI, Bassim M, Ursick J, Slattery WH 3rd, Schwartz MS, et al. A paradigm shift in salvage surgery for radiated vestibular schwannoma. Otol Neurotol 2011;32:1322-8.  Back to cited text no. 20
Pollock BE, Lunsford LD, Kondziolka D, Sekula R, Subach BR, Foote RL, et al. Vestibular schwannoma management: Part II. Failed radiosurgery and the role of delayed microsurgery. J Neurosurg 2013;119(Suppl):949-55.  Back to cited text no. 21
Iwai Y, Ishibashi K, Nakanishi Y, Onishi Y, Nishijima S, Yamanaka K. Functional outcomes of salvage surgery for vestibular schwannomas after failed Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. World Neurosurg 2016;90:385-90.  Back to cited text no. 22
Kwon Y, Khang SK, Kim CJ, Lee DJ, Lee JK, Kwun BD. Radiologic and histopathologic changes after Gamma Knife radiosurgery for acoustic schwannoma. Stereotact Funct Neurosurg 1999;72(Suppl 1):2-10.  Back to cited text no. 23
Freeman SR, Ramsden RT, Saeed SR, Alzoubi FQ, Simo R, Rutherford SA, et al. Revision surgery for residual or recurrent vestibular schwannoma. Oto Neurotol 2008;28:1076-82.  Back to cited text no. 24
Roche PH, Khalil M, Thomassin JM. Microsurgical removal of vestibular schwannomas after failed previous microsurgery. Prog Neurol Surg 2008;21:158-62.  Back to cited text no. 25


  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


Print this article  Email this article
Online since 20th March '04
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow