Trigeminal Schwannoma Surgery: Challenges in Preserving Facial Sensation

Adv Tech Stand Neurosurg. 2023:46:95-107. doi: 10.1007/978-3-031-28202-7_5.


Treatments of schwannoma have dramatically improved in the previous few decades, but preservation of the functions of the originating nerve, such as facial sensation in trigeminal schwannomas, still remains challenging. As the preservation of facial sensation in trigeminal schwannomas has not been analyzed in detail, we here review our surgical experience of more than 50 trigeminal schwannoma patients, particularly focusing on their facial sensation. Since the facial sensation in each trigeminal division showed a different perioperative course even in a single patient, we investigated patient-based outcomes (average of the three divisions in each patient) and division-based outcomes separately. In the evaluation of patient-based outcomes, facial sensation remained postoperatively in 96% of all the patients, and improved in 26% and worsened in 42% of patients with preoperative hypesthesia. Posterior fossa tumors tended to most rarely disrupt facial sensation preoperatively, but were the most difficult to preserve facial sensation postoperatively. Facial pain was relieved in all six patients with preoperative neuralgia. In the division-based evaluation, facial sensation remained postoperatively in 83% of all the trigeminal divisions, and improved in 41% and worsened in 24% of the divisions with preoperative hypesthesia. The V3 region was most favorable before and after surgery, with the most frequent improvement and the least frequent functional loss. To clarify current treatment outcomes of the facial sensation and to achieve more effective preservation, standardized assessment methods of perioperative facial sensation may be required. We also introduce detailed MRI investigation methods for schwannoma, including contrast-enhanced heavily T2-weighted (CISS) imaging, arterial spin labeling (ASL), and susceptibility-weighted imaging (SWI), preoperative embolization for rare vascular-rich tumors, and modified techniques of the transpetrosal approach.

Keywords: Brain neoplasm; Cavernous sinus; Cerebellopontine angle; Cranial nerve preservation; Kawase’s triangle; Meckel’s cave; Middle fossa; Skull base tumor; Transpetrosal approach; Trigeminal neuroma.

MeSH terms

  • Cranial Nerve Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Hypesthesia / pathology
  • Neurilemmoma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Sensation
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trigeminal Nerve / surgery