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Brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEP) are useful indicators of auditory function during posterior fossa surgery. Several potential mechanisms of injury may affect the cochlear nerve, and complete loss of BAEP is often associated with postoperative hearing loss. We report two cases of intraoperative auditory loss related to vascular compression upon the cochlear nerve.
Intra-operative BAEP were monitored in a consecutive series of over 300 microvascu-lar decompressions (MVD) performed in a recent twelve-month period. In two patients undergoing treatment for trigeminal neuralgia, BAEP waveforms suddenly disappeared completely during closure of the dura.
The cerebello-pontine angle was immediately re-explored and there was no evidence of hemorrhage or cerebellar swelling. The cochlear nerve and brainstem were inspected, and prominent vascular compression was identified in both patients. A cochlear nerve MVD resulted in immediate restoration of BAEP, and both patients recovered without hearing loss.
These cases illustrate that vascular compression upon the cochlear nerve may disrupt function, and is reversible with MVD. Awareness of this event and recognition of BAEP changes alert the neurosurgeon to a potential reversible cause of hearing loss during posterior fossa surgery.
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