The purpose of this study was to define the patterns of drainage of the superior petrosal venous complex (SPVC) along the petrous ridge in relation to the Meckel cave and internal acoustic meatus (IAM) and to delineate its effect on the surgical exposures obtained in subtemporal transtentorial and retrosigmoid suprameatal approaches.
The patterns of drainage of the SPVC along the petrous ridge were characterized according to their relation to the Meckel cave and the IAM based on an examination of 30 hemispheres. Subtemporal transtentorial and retro-sigmoid suprameatal approaches were performed in three additional cadavers to demonstrate the effect of the drainage pattern on the surgical exposures.
The SPVC emptied into the superior petrosal sinus (SPS) within a distance of 1 cm from the midpoint of the Meckel cave. The patterns of drainage of the SPVC were classified into three groups. Type I emptied into the SPS above and lateral to the boundaries of the IAM. The most common type, Type II, emptied between the lateral limit of the trigeminal nerve at the Meckel cave and the medial limit of the facial nerve at the IAM, within an area of approximately 13 mm. Type III emptied into the SPS above or medial to the Meckel cave. The ideal SPVC for a subtemporal transtentorial approach (with or without anterior extradural petrosectomy) seems to be a Type I. In SPVC Type III and those Type II cases in which the SPVC is located near the Meckel cave, the amount of working space is significantly limited in a subtemporal transtentorial approach. In contrast, the ideal type of SPVC for a retrosigmoid suprameatal approach would be a Type III, and the SPVC must be divided in the majority of Type I and II cases for a satisfactory surgical exposure along the Meckel cave and middle fossa dura. The proposed modified classification system and its effect on the surgical exposure may aid in planning the approach directed along the petrous apex and may reduce the probability of venous complications.