OBJECTIVE: We sought to describe the advantages of the retrosigmoid-transmeatal (RS-TM) approach in the application of auditory brainstem implants (ABIs) in adults with monolateral and bilateral vestibular schwannoma (VS) and in children with cochlear nerve aplasia. Study Design: We conducted a retrospective case review. SETTING: The study was conducted at the ENT Department of the University of Verona, Italy. PATIENTS: Six adult patients (5 men and 1 woman) with neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) were operated on for VS removal with ABI. An additional patient had a unilateral VS in the only hearing ear. Tumor size ranged from 12 to 40 mm. In addition, 2 children received ABIs for bilateral cochlear nerve aplasia. INTERVENTION: An RS-TM approach was used in all VS patients, and an RS approach was used in the subjects with cochlear nerve aplasia. After tumor excision, landmarks (VII, VIII and IX cranial nerves, choroid plexus) for the foramen of Luschka were carefully identified. The choroid plexus was then partially removed and the tela choroidea divided and bent back; the floor of the lateral recess of the fourth ventricle and the convolution of the dorsal cochlear nucleus became visible. In the 2 subjects with no cochlear nerve, the choroid plexus and VII and IX cranial nerves were used as landmarks. The electrode array was then inserted into the lateral recess and the correct position was monitored with the aid of electrically evoked auditory brainstem responses (EABR) and neural response telemetry (NRT). RESULTS: Correct implantation was possible in all patients. Auditory sensations were induced in all patients with various numbers of electrodes. Different pitch sensations could be identified with different electrode stimulation. CONCLUSIONS: We believe that the RS approach is the route of choice for patients who are candidates for ABI due to the easy and clear access to the cochlear nucleus area. This route avoids some of the drawbacks of the translabyrinthine approach, such as mastoidectomy, labyrinthectomy, sealing of the cavity and posterior fossa with abdominal fat, and contamination from the middle ear. For this reason, it is the route of choice in children with cochlear nerve aplasia or severe cochlear malformation and in adults with complete ossification of the cochlea or cochlear nerve disruption due to cranial trauma.
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