This study describes and compares the long-term socio-economic impact for patients diagnosed with a vestibular schwannoma and either operated on or observed.
A consecutive sample of patients diagnosed with vestibular schwannoma in Denmark and either operated on (748 patients) or observed by the wait-and-re-scan policy (272 patients) during the period 1976-2000 were studied retrospectively. The consequences of operation/diagnosis (andobservation) on vocational status, ability to handle daily chores and some psycho-social aspects were studied by means of a prospective postal questionnaire. Ninety-six per cent of the operated and 83 per cent of the observed patients answered the questionnaire. Overall, 34 per cent of operated patients resumed their daily activities within one to two months, and 76 per cent within four to six months. Patients operated on for a large tumour resumed their daily activities later than patients with a small tumour. Regardless of tumour size, employment was unchanged for the majority of observed and operated patients. The vocational consequences were significantly worse for operated patients with a large tumour, than for observed patients. However, no difference existed between the observed group and operated patients with a tumour below 20 mm in size. A change in vocational status was most frequent for assisting spouses, unskilled manual workers and the self-employed. The majority of both observed and operated patients experienced no change in their ability to handle daily chores. The changed ability of operated patients was worse than that of observed patients. Among various changes in their psycho-social well-being, decrease in social ability was the most frequent complaint in both groups, followed by increased fatigue, decreased concentration, increased irritability, depression and headache, decreased intellect and libido. Regardless of tumour size, the change in social ability, concentration and fatigue was worse for operatedpatients. Concerning headache, patients operated on for a large tumour were better off than observed patients and patients operated on fora small tumour. There was no difference between the operated and observed groups concerning irritability, intellect and libido.
Deterioration of vocational status, ability to handle daily chores and several aspects of psycho-social well-being are reported both by patients operated on and observed for vestibular schwannoma. However, the negative changes were more frequent among the operated patients, although the differences were surprisingly modest, especially when comparing observed patients with patients operated on for a small tumour.