A common approach to lesions of the pineal region is along the midline below the torcula. However, reports of how shifting the approach off midline affects the surgical exposure and relationships between the tributaries of the vein of Galen are limited. The purpose of this study is to examine the microsurgical and endoscopic anatomy of the pineal region as seen through the supracerebellar infratentorial approaches, including midline, paramedian, lateral, and far-lateral routes.
The quadrigeminal cisterns of 8 formalin-fixed adult cadaveric heads were dissected and examined with the aid of a surgical microscope and straight endoscope. Twenty CT angiograms were examined to measure the depth of the pineal gland, slope of the tentorial surface of the cerebellum, and angle of approach to the pineal gland in each approach.
The midline supracerebellar route is the shortest and provides direct exposure of the pineal gland, although the culmen and inferior and superior vermian tributaries of the vein of Galen frequently block this exposure. The off-midline routes provide a surgical exposure that, although slightly deeper, may reduce the need for venous sacrifice at both the level of the veins from the superior cerebellar surface entering the tentorial sinuses and at the level of the tributaries of the vein of Galen in the quadrigeminal cistern, and require less cerebellar retraction. Shifting from midline to off-midline exposure also provides a better view of the cerebellomesencephalic fissure, collicular plate, and trochlear nerve than the midline approaches. Endoscopic assistance may aid exposure of the pineal gland while preserving the bridging veins.
Understanding the characteristics of different infratentorial routes to the pineal gland will aid in gaining a better view of the pineal gland and cerebellomesencephalic fissure and may reduce the need for venous sacrifice at the level of the tentorial sinuses draining the upper cerebellar surface and the tributaries of the vein of Galen.