Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether three magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings (tumor size, extension to the fundus, intralabyrinthine signal intensity) have a predictive value to hearing preservation in vestibular schwannoma surgery.
Study design: A retrospective study was conducted of preoperative high-resolution MR images in a series of consecutive hearing preservation attempts for vestibular schwannomas.
Patients: Twenty-six consecutive records of patients with an acoustic tumor removed via a retrosigmoid transcanal approach were analyzed, and the MR images were reviewed blindly and compared with postoperative hearing.
Setting: The study took place in a tertiary referral center. Imaging Techniques: The MR sequences used in this study were unenhanced and gadolinium-enhanced T1-weighted spin-echo images and gradient echo images (3DFT-CISS).
Main outcome measures: The predictive value of three MRI signs was analyzed: tumor size, lateral extension of the tumor (with and without obliteration of the fundus), and the maintenance of, or decrease in, the intralabyrinthine signal intensity on the affected side in comparison with the signal intensity on the opposite normal side as seen on 3DFT-CISS images.
Results: The tumor size in ears in which hearing was preserved averaged 15 mm and was 17 mm in those cases where hearing was not preserved. Hearing was preserved in 50% of ears when the tumor did not extend to the fundus but in only 33% when the fundus was obliterated by tumor. A "normal" intralabyrinthine signal on CISS images (being an isointense signal when compared with the contralateral unaffected ear) was followed by hearing preservation in 82% of ears, whereas in cases where the intralabyrinthine signal was low, hearing was preserved in only 20%. This correlation was statistically significant (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: The intralabyrinthine signal intensity on 3DFT-CISS gradient-echo images is a valuable additional tool for determining candidacy for hearing preservation surgery. In two cases with preoperative decrease in signal intensity of the intralabyrinthine fluids, control MRI after surgery showed spontaneous recovery of normal intralabyrinthine signal intensity. The authors hypothesize that vascular compression in the internal auditory canal by the tumor is responsible for the observed intralabyrinthine signal decrease.