Hearing Loss following Posterior Fossa Microvascular Decompression: A Systematic Review

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(1) Determine the prevalence of hearing loss following microvascular decompression (MVD) for trigeminal neuralgia (TN) and hemifacial spasm (HFS). (2) Demonstrate factors that affect postoperative hearing outcomes after MVD.

Data Sources

PubMed-NCBI, Scopus, CINAHL, and PsycINFO databases from 1981 to 2016.

Review Methods

Systematic review of prospective cohort studies and retrospective reviews in which any type of hearing loss was recorded after MVD for TN or HFS. Three researchers extracted data regarding operative indications, procedures performed, and diagnostic tests employed. Discrepancies were resolved by mutual consensus.


Sixty-nine references with 18,233 operations met inclusion criteria. There were 7093 patients treated for TN and 11,140 for HFS. The overall reported prevalence of hearing loss after MVD for TN and HFS was 5.58% and 8.25%, respectively. However, many of these studies relied on subjective measures of reporting hearing loss. In 23 studies with consistent perioperative audiograms, prevalence of hearing loss was 13.47% for TN and 13.39% for HFS, with no significant difference between indications (P = .95). Studies using intraoperative brainstem auditory evoked potential monitoring were more likely to report hearing loss for TN (relative risk [RR], 2.28; P < .001) but not with HFS (RR, 0.88; P = .056).


Conductive and sensorineural hearing loss are important complications following posterior fossa MVD. Many studies have reported on hearing loss using either subjective measures and/or inconsistent audiometric testing. Routine perioperative audiogram protocols improve the detection of hearing loss and may more accurately represent the true risk of hearing loss after MVD for TN and HFS.

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