The ventral jugular foramen and the infrapetrous region are difficult to access through conventional lateral and posterolateral approaches. Endoscopic endonasal approaches to this region are obstructed by the eustachian tube (ET). This study presents a novel strategy for mobilizing the ET while preserving its integrity. Qualitative and quantitative comparisons with previous ET management paradigms are also presented.
Ten dry skulls were analyzed. Four ET management strategies were sequentially performed on a total of 6 sides of cadaveric head specimens. Four measurement groups were generated: in group A, the ET was intact and not mobilized; in group B, the ET was mobilized inferolaterally; in group C, the ET underwent anterolateral mobilization; and in group D, the ET was resected. ET range of mobilization, surgical exposure area, and surgical freedom were measured and compared among the groups.
Wide exposure of the infrapetrous region and jugular foramen was achieved by removing the pterygoid process, unroofing the cartilaginous ET up to the level of the posterior aspect of the foramen ovale, and detaching the ET from the skull base and soft palate. Anterolateral mobilization of the ET facilitated significantly more retraction (a 126% increase) of the ET than inferolateral mobilization (mean ± SD: 20.8 ± 11.2 mm vs 9.2 ± 3.6 mm [p = 0.02]). Compared with group A, groups C and D had enhanced surgical exposure (142.5% [1176.9 ± 935.7 mm2] and 155.9% [1242.0 ± 1096.2 mm2], respectively, vs 485.4 ± 377.6 mm2 for group A [both p = 0.02]). Furthermore, group C had a significantly larger surgical exposure area than group B (p = 0.02). No statistically significant difference was found between the area of exposure obtained by ET removal and anterolateral mobilization. Anterolateral mobilization of the ET resulted in a 39.5% increase in surgical freedom toward the exocranial jugular foramen compared with that obtained through inferolateral mobilization of the ET (67.2° ± 20.5° vs 48.1° ± 6.7° [p = 0.047]) and a 65.4% increase compared with that afforded by an intact ET position (67.2° ± 20.5° vs 40.6° ± 14.3° [p = 0.03]).
Anterolateral mobilization of the ET provides excellent access to the ventral jugular foramen and infrapetrous region. The surgical exposure obtained is superior to that achieved with other ET management strategies and is comparable to that obtained by ET resection.