Posterior transpetrosal approach to aneurysms of the basilar trunk and vertebrobasilar junction

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Aneurysms of the basilar trunk and vertebrobasilar junction represent an exceptional challenge to the neurosurgeon. Surgical access to these deep and confined lesions is hampered by the direct proximity of highly vulnerable neural structures such as the brainstem and cranial nerves, as well as by the structure of the petrous bone, which blocks direct surgical approach to these aneurysms. A number of surgical tactics consisting of different supra- and infratentorial approaches have been applied over the years to gain access to these treacherous lesions. Only recently have lateral approaches, such as the anterior transpetrosal, the retrolabyrinthine-transsigmoidal, and the combined supra/infratentorial-posterior transpetrosal approaches, directed through parts of the petrous bone, been reported for surgery of basilar trunk and vertebrobasilar junction aneurysms. Because detailed reports of direct operative intervention using the transpetrosal route for these rare and difficult lesions are scarce, the authors present their surgical experiences in nine patients with basilar trunk and vertebrobasilar junction aneurysms, in whom they operated via the supra/infratentorial-posterior transpetrosal approach. In eight patients, including one with a giant partially thrombosed basilar trunk aneurysm, direct clipping of the aneurysm via the transpetrosal route was possible. In one patient with a giant vertebrobasilar junction aneurysm, the completely calcified aneurysm sac was resected after occlusion of the vertebral artery. In total, one patient died and another experienced postoperative accentuation of preexisting cranial nerve deficits. Two patients had transient cerebrospinal fluid leakage, and the postoperative course was uneventful in the remaining seven. Postoperative angiography demonstrated complete aneurysm clipping in eight patients and relief of preoperative brainstem compression in the patient with the giant vertebrobasilar junction aneurysm. It is concluded that the supra/infratentorial-posterior transpetrosal approach allows excellent access to the basilar artery trunk and vertebrobasilar junction and can be considered the approach of choice to selected aneurysms located in this area.

Aneurysms of the basilar trunk and vertebrobasilar junction represent an exceptional challenge to the neurosurgeon. Surgical access to these deep and confined lesions is hampered by the direct proximity of highly vulnerable neural structures such as the brainstem and cranial nerves, as well as by the structure of the petrous bone, which blocks direct surgical approach to these aneurysms. A number of surgical tactics consisting of different supra- and infratentorial approaches have been applied over the years to gain access to these treacherous lesions. Only recently have lateral approaches, such as the anterior transpetrosal, the retrolabyrinthine-transsigmoidal, and the combined supra/infratentorial-posterior transpetrosal approaches, directed through parts of the petrous bone, been reported for surgery of basilar trunk and vertebrobasilar junction aneurysms. Because detailed reports of direct operative intervention using the transpetrosal route for these rare and difficult lesions are scarce, the authors present their surgical experiences in nine patients with basilar trunk and vertebrobasilar junction aneurysms, in whom they operated via the supra/infratentorial-posterior transpetrosal approach. In eight patients, including one with a giant partially thrombosed basilar trunk aneurysm, direct clipping of the aneurysm via the transpetrosal route was possible. In one patient with a giant vertebrobasilar junction aneurysm, the completely calcified aneurysm sac was resected after occlusion of the vertebral artery. In total, one patient died and another experienced postoperative accentuation of preexisting cranial nerve deficits. Two patients had transient cerebrospinal fluid leakage, and the postoperative course was uneventful in the remaining seven. Postoperative angiography demonstrated complete aneurysm clipping in eight patients and relief of preoperative brainstem compression in the patient with the giant vertebrobasilar junction aneurysm. It is concluded that the supra/infratentorial-posterior transpetrosal approach allows excellent access to the basilar artery trunk and vertebrobasilar junction and can be considered the approach of choice to selected aneurysms located in this area.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Volker Seifert, M.D., Neurochirurgische Klinik, Universität-GHS-Essen, Hufelandstrasse 55, 45122 Essen, Germany.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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