OBJECTIVE: To conduct a prospective, open, nonrandomized study of treatment-associated morbidity in patients undergoing microsurgery or gamma knife radiosurgery (GKRS) for vestibular schwannomas.
METHODS: Ninety-one patients with vestibular schwannomas with a maximum tumor diameter of 25 mm in the cerebellopontine angle were treated according to a prospective protocol either by GKRS (63 patients) or open microsurgery (28 patients) using the suboccipital approach. Primary end points included hearing function, according to the Gardner-Robertson scale, and facial nerve function, according to the House-Brackmann scale at 2 years. Clinical data included a balance platform test, score for tinnitus and vertigo using a visual analog scale, and working ability. Patients responded to the quality-of-life questionnaires Short-Form 36 and Glasgow Benefit Inventory.
RESULTS: Three elderly GKRS patients withdrew; all remaining patients were followed for 2 years. Both primary end points were highly significant in favor of GKRS (P < 0.001). Evidence of reduced facial nerve function (House-Brackmann grade 2 or poorer) at 2 years was found in 13 of 28 open microsurgery patients and 1 of 60 GKRS patients. Thirteen of 28 patients who underwent surgery had serviceable hearing (Gardner-Robertson grade A or B) preoperatively, but none had serviceable hearing postoperatively. Twenty-five of 60 GKRS patients had serviceable hearing before treatment, and 17 (68%) of them had serviceable hearing 2 years after treatment. The tinnitus and vertigo visual analog scale score, as well as balance platform tests, did not change significantly after treatment, and working status did not differ between the groups at 2 years. Quality of life was significantly better in the GKRS group at 2 years, based on the Glasgow Benefit Inventory questionnaire. One GKRS patient required operative treatment within the 2-year study period.
CONCLUSION: This is the second prospective study to demonstrate better facial nerve and hearing outcomes from GKRS than from open surgery for small- and medium-sized vestibular schwannomas.