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Bradley A. Gross, Daryoush Tavanaiepour, Rose Du, Ossama Al-Mefty and Ian F. Dunn

In this article, the authors review the history of the posterior petrosal approach. The early foundation of the retrolabyrinthine lateral petrosectomy has its roots in the otolaryngology literature. These early approaches were limited in exposure by the tentorium superiorly and the sigmoid sinus posteriorly. Although the concept of a transtentorial approach was originally combined with a complete labyrinthectomy, Hakuba and colleagues described the expansive exposure afforded by sectioning the tentorium and superior petrosal sinus and mobilizing a skeletonized sigmoid sinus. This maneuver serves as the key step in allowing for the full, combined supra- and infratentorial exposure that the posterior petrosal approach provides. In contrast to Hakuba et al.'s approach, which used a partial labyrinthectomy, modern approaches often preserve the entire labyrinth (retrolabyrinthine approach). For added exposure, the latter can be combined with the anterior petrosal approach, allowing for the preservation of hearing and an enhanced view of the surgical target. The authors review the evolution of the petrosal approach and highlight its applicability.

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Bradley A. Gross, Ian F. Dunn, Rose Du and Ossama Al-Mefty


Although they provide excellent ventral and lateral exposure of the brainstem, petrosal approaches to brainstem cavernous malformations (CMs) are infrequently reported.


The authors reviewed their experience with petrosal approaches to brainstem CMs in combination with a comprehensive review of the literature to elucidate resection rates, complication rates, and outcomes.


Including their own results, the authors found 65 cases in 20 reports of brainstem CMs treated with petrosal approaches. The specific approaches were posterior petrosal in 37 cases (57%), anterior petrosal in 17 (26%), extended posterior petrosal in 10 (15%), and a combined petrosal approach in 1 case (2%). For 50 cases in 16 reports with detailed outcome information, the overall complete resection rate was 90%, with early postoperative morbidity reported in 30% of cases and permanent morbidity in 14%. The rate of CSF leakage was 6%.


The versatile petrosal approaches to brainstem CMs are associated with good outcomes and an acceptable morbidity rate. More expansive lesions can be approached using a combination of the standard anterior and posterior petrosal approach, preserving hearing and avoiding the greater complication rates associated with extended posterior petrosal approaches.

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Bradley A. Gross, Daryoush Tavanaiepour, Rose Du, Ossama Al-Mefty and Ian F. Dunn

Complex posterior circulation aneurysms are formidable lesions with an abysmal natural history. Their management continues to present a challenge to both endovascular and open microsurgical approaches. Affording an expansive, combined supra- and infratentorial exposure, the petrosal approaches are well suited for these challenging lesions when located along the basilar trunk or at a low-lying basilar apex. This report evaluates the evolution and application of petrosal approaches to these lesions. Excluding transsigmoid, infratentorial, or labyrinth-sacrificing approaches, the authors found 23 reports with 61 posterior circulation aneurysms treated via a petrosal approach. Although early morbidity was not negligible, rates of aneurysm occlusion (95% overall) and long-term outcome were quite laudable in light of the challenge posed by these lesions. Moreover, with accumulating experience with petrosal approaches, rates of complications are likely to wane, as neurosurgeons capitalize on the expansive exposure afforded by these indispensable approaches.