Objective: The aim of the present study was to evaluate the overall treatment efficacy (tumor control, facial nerve function, complications) and quality of life for patients treated primarily for unilateral vestibular schwannomas of 30 mm or less, either by microsurgery or by gamma knife (GK) radiosurgery. The results for the two treatment groups are compared with each other, with main emphasis on the long-term quality of life.
Methods: This is a retrospective study of 189 consecutive patients, 86 treated by microsurgery and 103 by gamma knife. The mean observation time was 5.9 years. All patients had a magnetic resonance imaging scan and clinical evaluation performed toward the end of the study. To evaluate the quality of life, we used two standardized questionnaires, the Glasgow Benefit Inventory and Short-Form 36. The questionnaires were sent to the 168 living patients. The reply rate was 83.3%.
Results: A total of 79.8% of the patients in the microsurgery group and 94.8% of the GK patients had a good facial nerve function (House-Brackmann Grade 1-2). Hearing was usually lost after microsurgery, whereas the GK patients had preserved hearing, which often became reduced over the years after the treatment. The treatment efficacy, defined as no need for additional treatment, was similar for the two treatment modalities. Quality of life was reduced compared with normative data, being most reduced in the microsurgery group. Some of the quality of life questions showed an association with facial nerve function and sex.
Conclusion: Posttreatment facial nerve function, hearing, complication rates, and quality of life were all significantly in favor of GK radiosurgery.