Object: The increased use of computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) technology has led to an increase in the detection of asymptomatic meningiomas, although the surgical indication for these tumors remains undetermined. The authors investigated the incidence of asymptomatic meningiomas and their clinical features.
Methods: An epidemiological survey was conducted of primary intracranial tumors diagnosed in Kumamoto Prefecture between 1989 and 1996. Follow-up neuroradiological imaging and clinical studies for asymptomatic meningiomas were performed. Primary intracranial tumors were diagnosed in 1,563 residents. Of these lesions, 504 (32.2%) were meningiomas, and of these meningiomas 196 (38.9%) were asymptomatic. The incidence of asymptomatic meningiomas was significantly higher in individuals older than 70 years of age. Furthermore, the incidence of asymptomatic meningiomas was significantly higher in female than in male patients. Of the asymptomatic meningiomas in 196 patients, 87 (44.4%) were surgically removed, whereas 109 (55.6%) were treated conservatively. Of these conservatively treated patients, 63 received follow-up care for more than 1 year. In 20 of these 63 cases, the tumors increased in size over the 27.8-month average follow-up period (range 12-87 months), whereas in the other 43 cases, the tumor size did not increase during a 36.6-month average follow-up period (range 12-96 months). There was no significant difference with respect to age, tumor size, and male/female ratio between the patient group in which the tumor size increased and the group in which it did not increase during the follow-up period. Asymptomatic meningiomas that evidenced calcification on CT scans and/or hypointensity on T2-weighted MR images appear to have a slower growth rate.
Conclusions: Among patients older than age 70 years who underwent operation for asymptomatic meningioma, the neurological morbidity rate was 23.3%; it was 3.5% among younger patients. This indicates that the advisability of surgery in elderly patients with asymptomatic meningiomas must be considered very carefully.