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Neurilemmoma Treatment & Management

  • Author: Ian D Dickey, MD, FRCSC; Chief Editor: Harris Gellman, MD  more...
Updated: Nov 21, 2014

Medical Therapy

Neurilemmomas can cause a functional deficit because of local pressure on the nerve of origin. Malignant degeneration, which is extremely rare, was described by Yousem et al in 1985.[7] Primary malignant tumors of this cell type do exist, but they are histologically distinct from neurilemmomas. In an unusual case in which resection would lead to a significant functional deficit, these benign lesions can be merely observed.

In a study assessing trends in management of unilateral vestibular schwannoma at Johns Hopkins University from 1997 through 2007, Tan et al noted an increase in cases observed with follow-up scanning (10.5% to 28.0%) and recommended for radiation (0% to 4.0%), along with a decrease in surgical cases (89.5% to 68.0%).[8] The increased frequency of observation was significant even after age, hearing status, and tumor size were controlled for. Tan et al concluded that this trend implied changes in both provider philosophy and patient expectations.


Surgical Therapy

Like most benign tumors, neurilemmomas respond well to local resection. On inspection, the nerve is usually splayed out over the lesion. The lesion is excised marginally, and the nerve fibers are spared. Interlesional resection is warranted when complete resection would result in permanent neurologic deficit. Local control is usually excellent.[9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14]



The most common complication is initial neurapraxia; however, this neurologic deficit can be permanent, depending on the resection of neural tissue. Generally, patients tolerate resection well, with complete and rapid relief of symptoms.


Outcome and Prognosis

Recurrence is unlikely after complete resection. Patients usually have rapid and complete relief of pain, with excellent long-term results.

Rare descriptions exist of malignant change in long-standing neurilemmomas, usually in patients with an underlying diagnosis of neurofibromatosis. Malignant change is extremely rare in isolated lesions.

Kano et al evaluated tumor control and hearing preservation relating to tumor volume, imaging characteristics, and nerve and cochlear radiation dose after stereotactic radiosurgery with a Gamma Knife in patients with acoustic neuroma.[15]

At a median of 20 months after surgery, none of the patients required further treatment.[15] Serviceable hearing was preserved in 71% of all patients and in 89% of patients with GR (Gardner-Robertson) class I hearing. Patients who received a radiation dose less than 4.2 Gy to the central cochlea had significantly better hearing preservation of the same GR class, and all 12 patients younger than 60 years who received a cochlear radiation dose less than 4.2 Gy retained serviceable hearing at 2 years after surgery.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Ian D Dickey, MD, FRCSC Adjunct Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Maine; Consulting Staff, Adult Reconstruction, Orthopedic Oncology, Department of Orthopedics, Eastern Maine Medical Center

Ian D Dickey, MD, FRCSC is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, British Columbia Medical Association, Canadian Medical Association

Disclosure: Received consulting fee from Stryker Orthopaedics for consulting; Received honoraria from Cadence for speaking and teaching; Received grant/research funds from Wright Medical for research; Received honoraria from Angiotech for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Ferring for speaking and teaching.


James Gerald Floyd, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Orthopedic Surgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine

James Gerald Floyd, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, National Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Sean P Scully, MD 

Sean P Scully, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis, Society of Surgical Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Harris Gellman, MD Consulting Surgeon, Broward Hand Center; Voluntary Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Plastic Surgery, Departments of Orthopedic Surgery and Surgery, University of Miami, Leonard M Miller School of Medicine, Clinical Professor, Surgery, Nova Southeastern School of Medicine

Harris Gellman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Association, American Society for Surgery of the Hand, Arkansas Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Howard A Chansky, MD Associate Professor, Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington Medical Center

Howard A Chansky, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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The cell of origin for a neurilemmoma is the Schwann cell, which is derived from the neural crest. These cells line the peripheral nerve processes.
Neurilemmomas have very distinctive appearances on magnetic resonance images. Many investigators believe that the presence of a target sign on a peripheral nerve is diagnostic for a neurilemmoma.
Pathology specimen.
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