Objective: The realistic chances of hearing preservation and the comparability of international results on hearing preservation in complete microsurgical vestibular schwannoma resections were the focus of this study in a large patient population treated by uniform principles.
Methods: One thousand vestibular schwannomas were operated on at Nordstadt Neurosurgical Department, from 1978 to 1993, by the senior surgeon (MS). There were 1000 tumors in 962 patients, i.e., 880 patients with unilateral tumors and 82 patients operated on for bilateral tumors in neurofibromatosis-2 (120 cases). Preservation of the cochlear nerve was attempted whenever possible. The audiometric data were analyzed by the Nordstadt classification system and graded in steps of 30 dB by audiometry and in steps of 10 to 30% by speech discrimination; for comparability, the data were also evaluated by the criteria of Gardner, Shelton, and House, and they were assessed in relation to the Hannover tumor extension grading system.
Results: Anatomic cochlear nerve preservation was achieved in 682 of 1000 cases (68%), as well as in some preoperatively deaf patients, a very few of whom regained some hearing. Of a total of 732 cases with some preoperative hearing, anatomic cochlear nerve preservation was achieved in 580 cases (79%) and functional cochlear nerve preservation in 289 (39.5%); analysis over time revealed an actual preservation rate of 47% in the most recent 200 cases. Specific factors, such as gender, tumor extension, preoperative hearing quality, and symptom duration, were investigated for their predictive value for hearing preservation. Male gender, small to medium tumor size (mainly extending within the cerebellopontine cistern; Classes T2 and T3), good to moderate hearing (up to 40-dB loss), and short duration of hypoacusis (< 1.5 yr) or of vestibular disturbances (< 0.7 yr) were advantageous factors, with chances of hearing preservation between 47 and 88%.
Conclusion: Functional cochlear nerve preservation in complete microsurgical resection should belong to the contemporary standard of treatment goals.