Object. The sphenopetroclival area is the border zone between the middle and posterior cranial fossa. Several authors have studied the microsurgical anatomy of this region and have furnished sometimes contradictory descriptions of this area, which still represents a great challenge for the neurosurgeon. On the basis of previous anatomical data reported in the literature, the authors undertook a new microanatomical analysis of the sphenopetroclival region and report their findings.
Methods. Twenty human cadaveric heads were used to reproduce, in the laboratory, different skull base approaches to expose the petroclival area. Measurements were taken in 40 specimens.
From this study has emerged the finding that the sphenopetroclival area is a venous space, which the authors have named the “sphenopetroclival venous gulf” (SPCVG). The SPCVG is filled anteriorly by blood from the cavernous sinus (lateral sellar compartment [LSC], medially by blood from the basilar plexus, and laterally by blood from the superior petrosal sinus; this venous gulf is drained by the inferior petrosal sinus. The SPCVG is comparable in shape to an irregular hedron figure. It contains the Dorello canal, the venous segment of the abducent nerve, and the superior sphenopetrosal (Gruber) ligament, the fibers of which are in anatomical continuity with those of the inferior sphenopetrosal (petrolingual) ligament, forming a “falciform ligament.”
Conclusions. The structures defining the posterior surface of the SPCVG may represent a helpful surgical corridor through which it is possible to approach the LSC via the posterior fossa. This conceptualization of the SPCVG is an attempt to define univocally the microanatomy of the sphenopetroclival region in its entirety.