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Edward R. Laws, Judith M. Wong, Timothy R. Smith, Kenneth de los Reyes, Linda S. Aglio, Alison J. Thorne, David J. Cote, Felice Esposito, Paolo Cappabianca and Atul Gawande


Approximately 250 million surgical procedures are performed annually worldwide, and data suggest that major complications occur in 3%–17% of them. Many of these complications can be classified as avoidable, and previous studies have demonstrated that preoperative checklists improve operating room teamwork and decrease complication rates. Although the authors’ institution has instituted a general preoperative “time-out” designed to streamline communication, flatten vertical authority gradients, and decrease procedural errors, there is no specific checklist for transnasal transsphenoidal anterior skull base surgery, with or without endoscopy. Such minimally invasive cranial surgery uses a completely different conceptual approach, set-up, instrumentation, and operative procedure. Therefore, it can be associated with different types of complications as compared with open cranial surgery. The authors hypothesized that a detailed, procedure-specific, preoperative checklist would be useful to reduce errors, improve outcomes, decrease delays, and maximize both teambuilding and operational efficiency. Thus, the object of this study was to develop such a checklist for endonasal transsphenoidal anterior skull base surgery.


An expert panel was convened that consisted of all members of the typical surgical team for transsphenoidal endoscopic cases: neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, circulating nurses, scrub technicians, surgical operations managers, and technical assistants. Beginning with a general checklist, procedure-specific items were added and categorized into 4 pauses: Anesthesia Pause, Surgical Pause, Equipment Pause, and Closure Pause.


The final endonasal transsphenoidal anterior skull base surgery checklist is composed of the following 4 pauses. The Anesthesia Pause consists of patient identification, diagnosis, pertinent laboratory studies, medications, surgical preparation, patient positioning, intravenous/arterial access, fluid management, monitoring, and other special considerations (e.g., Valsalva, jugular compression, lumbar drain, and so on). The Surgical Pause is composed of personnel introductions, planned procedural elements, estimation of duration of surgery, anticipated blood loss and fluid management, imaging, specimen collection, and questions of a surgical nature. The Equipment Pause assures proper function and availability of the microscope, endoscope, cameras and recorders, guidance systems, special instruments, ultrasonic microdoppler, microdebrider, drills, and other adjunctive supplies (e.g., Avitene, cotton balls, nasal packs, and so on). The Closure Pause is dedicated to issues of immediate postoperative patient disposition, orders, and management.


Surgical complications are a considerable cause of death and disability worldwide. Checklists have been shown to be an effective tool for reducing preventable errors surrounding surgery and decreasing associated complications. Although general checklists are already in place in most institutions, a specific checklist for endonasal transsphenoidal anterior skull base surgery was developed to help safeguard patients, improve outcomes, and enhance teambuilding.

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Gabriel Zada, Luigi M. Cavallo, Felice Esposito, Julio Cesar Fernandez-Jimenez, Anastasia Tasiou, Michelangelo De Angelis, Tullio Cafiero, Paolo Cappabianca and Edward R. Laws Jr.


In addition to difficulties with anesthetic and medical management, transsphenoidal operations in patients with longstanding acromegaly are associated with inherent intraoperative challenges because of anatomical variations that occur frequently in these patients. The object of this study was to review the overall safety profile and anatomical/technical challenges associated with transsphenoidal surgery in patients with acromegaly.


The authors performed a retrospective analysis of 169 patients who underwent endoscopic transsphenoidal operations for growth hormone–secreting adenomas to assess the incidence of surgical complications. A review of frequently occurring anatomical challenges and operative strategies employed during each phase of the operation to address these particular issues was performed.


Of 169 cases reviewed, there was no perioperative mortality. Internal carotid artery injury occurred in 1 patient (0.6%) with complex sinus anatomy, who remained neurologically intact following endovascular unilateral carotid artery occlusion. Other complications included: significant postoperative epistaxis (5 patients [3%]), transient diabetes insipidus (5 patients [3%]), delayed symptomatic hyponatremia (4 patients [2%]), CSF leak (2 patients [1%]), and pancreatitis (1 patient [0.6%]). Preoperative considerations in patients with acromegaly should include a cardiopulmonary evaluation and planning regarding intubation and other aspects of the anesthetic technique. During the nasal phase of the transsphenoidal operation, primary challenges include maintaining adequate visualization and hemostasis, which is frequently compromised by redundant, edematous nasal mucosa and bony hypertrophy of the septum and the nasal turbinates. During the sphenoid phase, adequate bony removal, optimization of working space, and correlation of imaging studies to intraoperative anatomy are major priorities. The sellar phase is frequently challenged by increased sellar floor thickness, distinct patterns of tumor extension and bony invasion, and anatomical variations in the caliber and course of the internal carotid artery. Specific operative techniques for addressing each of these intraoperative challenges are discussed.


Transsphenoidal surgery in patients with longstanding acromegaly frequently poses greater challenges than operations for other types of sellar lesions, yet these challenges may be safely and effectively overcome with the anticipation of specific issues and implementation of various intraoperative techniques.