Background: The standard surgical treatment of meningiomas is total resection of the tumour. The complete removal of skull base meningiomas can be difficult because of the proximity of cranial nerves. Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is an effective therapy, either for adjuvant treatment in case of subtotal or partial tumour resection, or as solitary treatment in asymptomatic meningiomas.
Method: Between September 1992 and October 1995. SRS using the Leksell Gamma Knife was performed on 46 patients (f:m 35:15), ranging in age from 35 to 81 years, with skull base meningiomas at the Neurosurgical Department of the University of Vienna. According to the indication of gamma knife radiosurgery (GKRS) the patients (n = 46) were divided into two subgroups. Group I (combined procedure: subtotal resection followed by GKRS as a planned procedure or because of a recurrent meningioma), group II (GKRS as the primary treatment). Histological examination of tumour tissue was available for 31 patients (67%) after surgery covering 25 benign (81%) and 6 malignant (19%) meningioma subtypes.
Findings: The overall tumour control rate after a mean follow-up period of 48 months (ranging from 36 to 76 months) was 96% (97.5% in benign and 83% in malignant meningiomas). Group I displayed a 96.7% tumour control rate, followed by group II with 93.3% respectively. Neurological follow-up showed an improvement in 33% stable clinical course in 58%) and a persistent deterioration of clinical symptoms in 9%. Remarkable neurological improvement after GKRS was observed in group II (47%), whereas in group I (26%) the amelioration of symptoms was less pronounced.
Interpretation: GKRS in meningiomas is a safe and effective treatment. A good tumour control and low morbidity rate was achieved in both groups (I, II) of our series, either as a primary or adjunctive therapeutic approach. The planned combination of microsurgery and GKRS extends the therapeutic spectrum in the treatment of meningiomas. Reduction of tumour volume, increasing the distance to the optical pathways and the knowledge of the actual growing tendency by histological evaluation of the tumour minimises the risk of morbidity and local regrowth. Small and sharply demarcated tumours are in general ideal candidates for single high dose-GKRS, even after failed surgery and radiation therapy, and in special cases also in larger tumour sizes with an adapted/reduced margin dose.