We reviewed 234 benign solitary schwannomas treated between 1984 and 2004. The mean age of the patients was 45.2 years (11 to 82). There were 170 tumours (73%) in the upper limb, of which 94 (40%) arose from the brachial plexus or other nerves within the posterior triangle of the neck. Six (2.6%) were located within muscle or bone. Four patients (1.7%) presented with tetraparesis due to an intraspinal extension.
There were 198 primary referrals (19 of whom had a needle biopsy in the referring unit) and in these patients the tumour was excised. After having surgery or an open biopsy at another hospital, a further 36 patients were seen because of increased neurological deficit, pain or incomplete excision. In these, a nerve repair was performed in 18 and treatment for pain or paralysis was offered to another 14.
A tender mass was found in 194 (98%) of the primary referrals. A Tinel-like sign was recorded in 155 (81%). Persistent spontaneous pain occurred in 60 (31%) of the 194 with tender mass, impairment of cutaneous sensibility in 39 (20%), and muscle weakness in 24 (12%).
After apparently adequate excision, two tumours recurred. No case of malignant transformation was seen.