Vestibular schwannomas: correlations between magnetic resonance imaging and histopathologic appearance

Otol Neurotol. 2001 Jan;22(1):79-86. doi: 10.1097/00129492-200101000-00016.


Background: The indication for surgery of vestibular schwannomas (VS) remains controversial and depends on several factors. The ability to predict their patterns of growth would allow better surgical planning. This growth may depend on tumoral proliferation but also depends on dystrophic changes.

Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in predicting the evolution of VS. For this purpose, the authors attempted (1) to compare the MRI appearance of VS with its histopathologic features, (2) to correlate the MRI appearance of VS and its histopathologic features with its size, and (3) to evaluate the index of proliferation (IP) of each VS.

Patients and methods: Thirty VS were studied with MRI before surgery. The VS were measured and classified as homogeneous, heterogeneous, and cystic. After surgery, IP was evaluated with immunohistochemical study using MIB-1 monoclonal antibody, and compared with tumor size. Pathologic studies evaluated the prevalence of Antoni type A and type B tissue, the amount of fibrosis, and the presence of siderin-loaded macrophages, xanthomatous cells, and cysts.

Results: The IP was low (0.2%-2.2%) and was not correlated with VS size. On MRI, 13 VS were homogeneous, 12 heterogeneous, and 5 cystic. The 13 homogeneous VS were smaller and were predominantly made of Antoni type A tissue. The 12 heterogeneous and 5 cystic VS were larger and were predominantly made of Antoni type B/mixed tissue. Heterogeneous and cystic VS showed significantly more hemosiderin deposits. There was a significant relation between the amount of hemosiderin deposits and the mean size of VS. Microscopic cysts were observed only in VS with cystic MRI appearance. Fibrosis was present in all tumors regardless of their size and MRI appearance.

Conclusion: A heterogeneous MRI aspect (correlated with larger mean size) not only is related to the ratio of type A to type B tissue but also is caused by other pathologic changes, mainly hemosiderin deposits and cystic formation. Increasing tumor size probably depends less on IP than on dystrophic changes (hemosiderin, cysts) and/or on the presence of type B tissue.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / metabolism
  • Ear, Inner / metabolism
  • Ear, Inner / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroma, Acoustic / diagnosis*
  • Neuroma, Acoustic / metabolism


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal