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Ali Tayebi Meybodi, Sirin Gandhi, Mark C. Preul and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECTIVE

Exposure of the vertebral artery (VA) between C-1 and C-2 vertebrae (atlantoaxial VA) may be necessary in a variety of pathologies of the craniovertebral junction. Current methods to expose this segment of the VA entail sharp dissection of muscles close to the internal jugular vein and the spinal accessory nerve. The present study assesses the technique of exposing the atlantoaxial VA through a newly defined muscular triangle at the craniovertebral junction.

METHODS

Five cadaveric heads were prepared for surgical simulation in prone position, turned 30°–45° toward the side of exposure. The atlantoaxial VA was exposed through the subatlantic triangle after reflecting the sternocleidomastoid and splenius capitis muscles inferiorly. The subatlantic triangle was formed by 3 groups of muscles: 1) the levator scapulae and splenius cervicis muscles inferiorly and laterally, 2) the longissimus capitis muscle inferiorly and medially, and 3) the inferior oblique capitis superiorly. The lengths of the VA exposed through the triangle before and after unroofing the C-2 transverse foramen were measured.

RESULTS

The subatlantic triangle consistently provided access to the whole length of atlantoaxial VA. The average length of the VA exposed via the subatlantic triangle was 19.5 mm. This average increased to 31.5 mm after the VA was released at the C-2 transverse foramen.

CONCLUSIONS

The subatlantic triangle provides a simple and straightforward pathway to expose the atlantoaxial VA. The proposed method may be useful during posterior approaches to the craniovertebral junction should early exposure and control of the atlantoaxial VA become necessary.

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Ali Tayebi Meybodi, Sirin Gandhi, Justin Mascitelli, Baran Bozkurt, Gyang Bot, Mark C. Preul and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECTIVE

Access to the ventrolateral pontomesencephalic area may be required for resecting cavernous malformations, performing revascularization of the upper posterior circulation, and treating vascular lesions such as aneurysms. However, such access is challenging because of nearby eloquent structures. Commonly used corridors to this surgical area include the optico-carotid, supracarotid, and carotid-oculomotor triangles. However, the window lateral to the oculomotor nerve can also be used and has not been studied. The authors describe the anatomical window formed between the oculomotor nerve and the medial tentorial edge (the oculomotor-tentorial triangle [OTT]) to the ventrolateral pontomesencephalic area, and assess techniques to expand it.

METHODS

Four cadaveric heads (8 sides) underwent orbitozygomatic craniotomy. The OTT was exposed via a pretemporal approach. The contents of the OTT were determined and their anatomical features were recorded. Also, dimensions of the brainstem surface exposed lateral and inferior to the oculomotor nerve were measured. Measurements were repeated after completing a transcavernous approach (TcA), and after resection of temporal lobe uncus (UnR).

RESULTS

The s1 segment and proximal s2 segment of the superior cerebellar artery (SCA) and P2A segment of the posterior cerebral artery (PCA) were the main contents of the OTT, with average exposed lengths of 6.4 ± 1.3 mm and 5.5 ± 1.6 mm for the SCA and PCA, respectively. The exposed length of the SCA increased to 9.6 ± 2.7 mm after TcA (p = 0.002), and reached 11.6 ± 2.4 mm following UnR (p = 0.004). The exposed PCA length increased to 6.2 ± 1.6 mm after TcA (p = 0.04), and reached 10.4 ± 1.8 mm following UnR (p < 0.001). The brainstem surface was exposed 7.1 ± 0.5 mm inferior and 5.6 ± 0.9 mm lateral to the oculomotor nerve initially. The exposure inferior to the oculomotor nerve increased to 9.3 ± 1.7 mm after TcA (p = 0.003), and to 9.9 ± 2.5 mm after UnR (p = 0.21). The exposure lateral to the oculomotor nerve increased to 8.0 ± 1.7 mm after TcA (p = 0.001), and to 10.4 ± 2.4 mm after UnR (p = 0.002).

CONCLUSIONS

The OTT is an anatomical window that provides generous access to the upper ventrolateral pontomesencephalic area, s1- and s2-SCA, and P2A-PCA. This window may be efficiently used to address various pathologies in the region and is considerably expandable by TcA and/or UnR.