• Facial nerve schwannoma;
  • evolution;
  • management;
  • microsurgery;
  • decompression;
  • observation;
  • radiosurgery;
  • facial nerve grafting;
  • Level of Evidence: 2b



To design a treatment algorithm based on experience with facial nerve schwannomas (FNS) over a 30-year period.

Study Design:

Retrospective chart review.


Seventy-nine patients with facial nerve schwannomas seen from 1979 through 2009 at a tertiary referral private otologic practice were categorized by treatment modality. Interventions included surgical resection with grafting, bony decompression, observation, or stereotactic radiation. Outcome measures included House-Brackmann facial nerve grade before and after intervention as well as change in facial nerve grade, tumor size, involved segments of nerve, time to intervention.


Thirty-seven patients (46.8%) ultimately underwent surgical excision with grafting or primary anastomosis, 21 (26.6%) underwent bony decompression alone, 15 (19.0%) were managed with observation only, and 6 (7.6%) had stereotactic radiation. Through 1995, 85% of cases had surgical resection and none had observation only. Of the 52 patients seen after 1995, 27% had surgical resection and grafting, 33% had bony decompression, 29% were managed with observation alone, and 11% had radiotherapy. Facial nerve grade was maintained or improved over the follow-up period (mean time = 3.9 years) in 78.9% of the decompression group and 100% of the observation and radiation groups compared to 54.8% of the resection group (P ≤ .012).


Surgical resection and grafting, once widely accepted and practiced, has in many cases given way to observation, bony decompression, or stereotactic radiation. A wide armamentarium of options is available to the neurotologist treating facial nerve schwannomas with the ability to preserve facial function for a longer period of time.