Lesions of the foramen magnum, inferolateral-to-midclival areas, and ventral pons and medulla are often treated using a far-lateral or extreme-lateral infrajugular transcondylar–transtubercular exposure (ELITE) approach. The development and surgical relevance of critical posterior skull base bony structures encountered during these approaches, including the occipital condyle (OC), hypoglossal canal (HGC), and jugular tubercle (JT), are nonetheless poorly defined in the pediatric population.
Measurements from high-resolution CT scans were made of the relevant posterior skull base anatomy (HGC depth from posterior edge of the OC, OC and JT dimensions) from 60 patients (evenly distributed among ages 0–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–15, 16–18, and > 18 years), and compared between laterality, sex, and age groups by using t-tests and linear regression.
There were no significant differences in posterior skull base parameters by laterality, and HGC depth and JT size did not differ by sex. The OC area was significantly larger in males versus females (174.3 vs 152.2 mm2; p = 0.01). From ages 0–3 years to adult, the mean HGC depth increased 27% (from 9.0 to 11.4 mm) and the OC area increased 52% (from 121.4 to 184.0 mm2). The majority of growth for these parameters occurred between the 0–3 year and 4–7 year age groups. Conversely, JT volume increased nearly 3-fold (281%) from 97.4 to 370.9 mm3 from ages 0–3 years to adult, with two periods of substantial growth seen between the 0–3 to 4–7 year and the 12–15 to 16–18 year age groups. Overall, JT growth during pediatric development was significantly greater than increases in HGC depth and OC area (p < 0.05). JT volume remained < 65% of adult size up to age 16.
When considering a far-lateral or ELITE approach in pediatric patients, standard OC drilling is likely to be needed due to the relative stability of OC and HGC anatomy during development. The JT significantly increases in size with development, yet is only likely to need to be drilled in older children (> 16 years) and adults.
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