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Table of Contents    
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 69  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 578-581

Endoscopic-Assisted Microsurgery for Vestibular Schwannomas: Operative Nuances

1 Department of Neurosurgery, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Saket Nagar, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India
2 Department of ENT, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India
3 Former Dean and Professor of Neurosurgery, Sree Chitra Tirunal Insitute of Medical Sciences, Trivandrum, Kerala, India

Date of Submission20-Dec-2020
Date of Decision14-May-2021
Date of Acceptance24-May-2021
Date of Web Publication24-Jun-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Adesh Shrivastava
Department of Neurosurgery, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Saket Nagar, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh 462020
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.319208

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 » Abstract 

Vestibular schwannoma surgery is a challenging operative procedure. Intricate anatomy of vital neurovascular structures demands a meticulous planning and execution. The cerebellopontine angle is an unforgiving area of skull bases surgery which can have grave implications on patient outcome even after a successful tumor removal. As more and more tumors are being detected at early stage, functional preservation of seventh and eighth nerve complex is increasingly being demanded. The key to any minimally invasive approach is to minimize the collateral damage while ensuring complete tumor removal. Binocular microscopy is the workhorse for illumination and dissection via retrosigmoid approach. However, as instrumentation has improved, endoscopic dissections are increasingly being performed. The following video presents the step-by-step nuances for an endoscope-assisted microsurgery for small vestibular schwannomas with stress on endoscopic drilling of the meatal wall to deliver out intracanacular tumor while preserving the labrynthine structures.

Keywords: Endoscopic neurosurgery, intracanalicular vestibular schwannoma, meatal drilling, vestibular schwannomas
Key Message: Using the best of both the microscope and endoscope while operating on vestibular schwannomas can help in achieving a safe radical tumor removal along with the advantage of minimal access surgery.

How to cite this article:
Shrivastava A, Mishra R, Nair A, Nair S. Endoscopic-Assisted Microsurgery for Vestibular Schwannomas: Operative Nuances. Neurol India 2021;69:578-81

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava A, Mishra R, Nair A, Nair S. Endoscopic-Assisted Microsurgery for Vestibular Schwannomas: Operative Nuances. Neurol India [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Sep 27];69:578-81. Available from:

Over the last century, vestibular schwannomas surgery has evolved from finger enucleation to electro-physiologically guided microsurgical dissection to preserve hearing.[1] Skull base surgeons the world over have toiled over decades refining the surgical approach and dissection techniques to improve patient outcomes.[2] The introduction of the operating microscope by Theodor Kurze in the year 1957 marked the beginning of a new era in brain surgery.[3] The next paradigm shift came in the year 1910 by Victor Lespinasse with the introduction of endoscopes for fulgurating choroid plexus in infants with hydrocephalus.[4] With further progress endoscopes were used as inspection around the corners during microscopic surgeries. Gradually as the instrumentation and skill sets improved, surgeons started performing drilling as well as dissection under direct endoscopic vision.[5] Intracanalicular extension often requires drilling of the posterior meatal wall to safely deliver out the tumor. This drilling risks damage to middle ear structures which are in close proximity.[6] Smaller tumors pose further difficulty due to an acutely angled and nondilated internal auditory meatus (IAM).[7] Additionally, vascular disruption and even damage to endolymphatic sac/duct also lead to sensorineural hearing loss even with a physically preserved cochlear nerve.[7]

A detailed study of the preoperative temporal bone HRCT with endoscopic- assisted drilling and dissection of the meatus provides the best chances of preserving hearing while ensuring complete tumor removal.[8],[9]

 » Case Study Top

We present here the step-by-step approach to perform safe removal of a small right-sided vestibular schwannoma with intracanalicular extension via the endoscopic-assisted microsurgery technique.

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Video timeline with audio transcript (Minutes)


In this operative video, we present to you a case of small right vestibular schwannoma operated through the endoscopic-assisted microsurgery technique. Appropriate consent was taken from the patient before publishing this video. This 40-year-old male presented with the complaint of right ear fullness for 12 months. Clinically, there were no obvious neurological deficits. [00:00:30]

Pure tone audiometry showed a mild sensory neural hearing loss in the right ear. A gadolinium-enhanced MRI revealed a small right vestibular schwannoma, mainly intracanalicular and reaching up to the fundus of the IAM, with small CSF cap. The patient was initially offered to undergo a gamma knife radiosurgery at another center which he refused and opted for observation.


He returned 3 months later with complaints of reduced hearing on the right side. Citing unwillingness to travel to another city for GKRS, the patient chose to undergo surgery. Temporal bone HRCT delineated the labyrinthine anatomy in relation to the intracanalicular tumor.


On tracing the fundus-sinus line, it was obvious that a routine craniotomy and completely microscopic approach to the fundus would cause disruption of the semicircular canal. Microscopic removal through a larger suboccipital craniotomy would require excessive cerebellar retraction. Therefore, he was planned for an endoscopic-assisted microsurgery via a mini craniectomy.


For patients with a mobile neck, supine position with head tilt is preferred, and for short-neck patients, the park bench position. The idea is that the jugular veins should be freely draining.


The skull is fixed in a three-pin clamp and the patient is strapped. We prefer a linear incision with a small oval burr hole with its long axis parallel to and its margin based on the sigmoid sinus. A curvilinear durotomy is preferred over cruciate to ensure a quick closure and reduces the chance of CSF leaks.


The patient attempt to drain CSF from the subarachnoid spaces has to be made slowly and gradually over the next few minutes. Even when the cerebellum is seen full over the durotomy, CSF can be drained in small increments with careful microdissection. Once adequate CSF has been drained, a 0 degree endoscope is introduced early to delineate the anatomy of the CP angle.


Alternative inspection of the CP angle with a microscope and an endoscope helps to understand the 3D anatomical disposition of the neurovascular structures. Here, the petrous bone is seen in the superior half and the petrosal surface of the cerebellum in the lower half. The inferior surface of the tent with the petrosal vein entering at the petrotentorial junction is on the left.


Followed by the extracanalicular portion of the vestibular schwannoma. Inferiorly, the seventh to eighth nerve complex is seen being pushed posteriorly by this tumor. Next, the microscope is brought in to start the initial decompression. Some surgeons perform a completely endoscopic tumor removal. We practice a combined approach to have the best of both the visualization techniques.


The microscope provides excellent depth perception and ease of bimanual dissection. The endoscope provides a panoramic close-up view, look around the corners and work with curved instruments. For the decompression of small tumors, we prefer minimal usage of electrocautery to minimize thermal damage to overlying nerves.


These smaller tumors usually do not have large intratumoral vessels, and thus, small bleeders are easily controlled with the warm saline irrigation or a gentle pressure.


Next, dura over the posterior meatal lip is cauterized, incised, and reflected off. A 2 mm diamond drill is then used to incrementally remove bone of the posterior meatal wall. The tumor is teased out gently using a hook and small suction cannula under a low suction pressure avoiding pulling. This microscopic drilling is done till the anticipated semicircular canal is safe based on the preoperative HRCT.


Here, one can appreciate that the visible IAM is free of tumor and the seventh to eighth nerve complex is seen entering within. Thereafter, a 30 degree endoscope is introduced.


A higher-angle endoscope (45 or 75 degree) is not useful as the visualization achieved by it cannot be worked upon. This is because the angled instruments have the limitations of access and maneuverability in such tight spaces. Using an angled suction cannula at a low negative pressure, the loose tumor is gently sucked out in small bits. The suction is always introduced and moved away from the nerve to prevent any inadvertent damage.


The posterior meatal wall is further drilled incrementally with a 2 mm diamond burr till all the tumor is freed and sucked out from the IAM. During this whole process, the field needs to be kept clear of blood with generous flow of saline to maintain continuous visualization of the facial nerve.


After complete tumor removal, arachnoid in the fundus of the IAM is visible along with the neural complex. A gentle but thorough saline irrigation is done to drive out the minute tumor fragments and to confirm hemostasis. Dura is closed in a watertight fashion and skin closed in layers.


A postoperative contrast-enhanced C.T. scan done the next day shows a complete tumor removal from both intra and extracanalicular spaces. Preservation of the middle ear labyrinthine structures can be appreciated along with the drilled out posterior lip of the IAM. Postoperatively, the patient did not have any facial weakness and a 3-year follow [00:08:30] up is free of any tumor recurrence.


  1. Endoscope-assisted microsurgery for vestibular schwannoma helps visualize the microscopic blind field including fundus of the IAM. A straight microscopic view cannot provide an adequate visualization of the most lateral part of the canal.
  2. Angled endoscope allows excellent visualization of the fundus permitting surgeon to completely remove tumor under direct vision, thereby reducing recurrence rates.
  3. Under endoscopic vision, drilling of the posterior wall of IAM can be tailored in cases which have high jugular bulb and more medially placed semicircular canals. Also, it helps to avoid intraosseous endolymphatic sac which could be inadvertently violated during drilling. Opened air cells of the temporal bone can also be recognized precisely to prevent postoperative leakage of CSF.
  4. Endoscope facilitates early recognition of facial nerve which we know presently arise mostly in the subarachnoid space in the IAM without any arachnoid layer separating it from seventh to eighth complex.


  1. Possible thermal injury to neurovascular structures can be caused by the heat generated by the light of the endoscope. To avoid this, one should use continuous intermittent saline irrigation.
  2. Endoscopic manipulation within CPA requires a learning curve and can lead to mechanical injury with inexperienced hands. Introduce the endoscope under microscopic observation is often helpful.

 » Conclusion Top

Surgical removal of vestibular schwannomas has evolved over the last century not only with respect to the instrumentation but also in terms of visualization, magnification, and illumination. Surgeons are using endoscopes at various levels ranging from inspection to complete endoscopic removal. We believe that a collaborative approach using the best of microscopy and endoscopy can give the best chances of functional preservation. The exclusive utilization of microscope has a poor reliability for evaluating canalicular residue. Endoscopic assistance not only decreases the amount of bone drilling in the posterior wall of the IAC, but also provides optimal views toward the fundus of the IAC to achieve complete resection safely. This is especially true with small tumors without expansion of internal auditory meatus.

Patient's consent

A full and detailed consent from the patient/guardian has been taken. The patient's identity has been adequately anonymized. If anything related to the patient's identity is shown, adequate consent has been taken from the patient/relative/guardian. The journal will not be responsible for any medicolegal issues arising out of issues related to patient's identity or any other issues arising from the public display of the video. The journal reserves the right to withdraw or pull out the video at any point of time without providing any reason whatsoever.

Disclosure: The authors hereby certify that the work shown here is genuine, original, and not submitted anywhere, either in part or full. They transfer the full rights of the video to Neurology India. All the necessary permissions from the patient, hospital, and institution have been taken for submitting this video to Neurology India.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 » References Top

Shrivastava A, Nair A, Nair S. Vestibular schwannoma: Half a decade odyssey from challenges to functional preservation. Neurol India 2020;68:262-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Akard W, Tubbs RS, Seymour ZA, Hitselberger WE, Cohen-Gadol AA. Evolution of techniques for the resection of vestibular schwannomas: From saving life to saving function: Historical vignette. J Neurosurg 2009;110:642-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kriss TC, Kriss VM. History of the operating microscope: From magnifying glass to microneurosurgery. Neurosurgery 1998;42:899-907.  Back to cited text no. 3
Li KW, Nelson C, Suk I, Jallo GI. Neuroendoscopy: Past, present, and future. Neurosurg Focus 2005;19:1-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
Setty P, D'Andrea K, Stucken E, Babu S, LaRouere M, Pieper D. Endoscopic resection of vestibular schwannomas. J Neurol Surg Part B Skull Base 2015;76:230-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
Domb GH, Chole RA. Anatomical studies of the posterior petrous apex with regard to hearing preservation in acoustic neuroma removal: Laryngoscope 1980;90:1769-76.  Back to cited text no. 6
Low WK. Enhancing hearing preservation in endoscopic-assisted excision of acoustic neuroma via the retrosigmoid approach. J Laryngol Otol 1999;113:973-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
Savardekar A, Nagata T, Kiatsoontorn K, Terakawa Y, Ishibashi K, Goto T, et al. Preservation of labyrinthine structures while drilling the posterior wall of the internal auditory canal in surgery of vestibular schwannomas via the retrosigmoid suboccipital approach. World Neurosurg 2014;82:474-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
Pillai P, Sammet S, Ammirati M. Image-guided, endoscopic-assisted drilling and exposure of the whole length of the internal auditory canal and its fundus with preservation of the integrity of the labyrinth using a retrosigmoid approach: A laboratory investigation. Oper Neurosurg 2009;65(Suppl 6):53-9.  Back to cited text no. 9


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