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Radiographic Association of Schwannomas With Sensory Ganglia

Tryggvason, Geir*; Barnett, Andrew*; Kim, John; Soken, Hakan*; Maley, Joan; Hansen, Marlan R.*‡

doi: 10.1097/MAO.0b013e318263d315
Tumors of the Ear and Cranial Base

Objective Clinical experience suggests that the majority of schwannomas arise within sensory ganglia, suggesting that intraganglionic glial cells represent a potential cell of origin for schwannomas. To support this clinical impression, we reviewed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies performed over a 5-year period at our institution to determine the relationship of cranial and spinal nerve schwannomas with the ganglia of the associated nerves.

Study design Retrospective cohort study.

Setting Tertiary referral center.

Patients Patients undergoing imaging study at our institution over a 5-year period.

Intervention(s) Radiographic images at our institution were reviewed as well as published studies to determine the anatomic location of schwannomas.

Main Outcome Measure(s) Anatomic location of schwannomas.

Results A total of 372 patients were found over the 5-year study period, 31 of those were diagnosed with neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2). Vestibular schwannomas comprised the greatest number of schwannomas, followed by spinal schwannomas. In NF2 patients, spinal schwannomas were the most common tumor, followed by vestibular schwannomas. In NF2 patients and those with sporadic schwannomas, the overwhelming majority of tumors arose in nerves with a sensory component and were associated with the sensory ganglia of the nerves (562/607, 92.6%). Very few tumors arose from pure motor nerves. This is supported by review of published articles on anatomic location of schwannomas.

Conclusion Schwannomas are strongly associated anatomically with the ganglia of sensory nerves. These findings raise the possibility that intraganglionic glial cells give rise to the majority of schwannomas.

Departments of *Otolaryngology –Head and Neck Surgery, †Radiology, and ‡Neurosurgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Marlan R. Hansen, M.D., Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA 52242; E-mail:

Support: This study was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders grant R01 DC009801.

The authors disclose no conflicts of interest.

© 2012 Otology & Neurotology, Inc.