The transpterygoid extension of the endoscopic endonasal approach provides exposure of the petrous apex, Meckel’s cave, paraclival area, and the infratemporal fossa. Safe and efficient localization of the lacerum segment of the internal carotid artery (ICA) is a crucial part of such exposure. The aim of this study is to introduce a novel landmark for localization of the lacerum ICA.
Ten cadaveric heads were prepared for transnasal endoscopic dissection. The floor of the sphenoid sinus was drilled to expose an extension of the pharyngobasilar fascia between the sphenoid floor and the pterygoid process (the pterygoclival ligament). Several features of the pterygoclival ligament were assessed. In addition, 31 dry skulls were studied to assess features of the bony groove harboring the pterygoclival ligament.
The pterygoclival ligament was identified bilaterally during drilling of the sphenoid floor in all specimens. The ligament started a few millimeters posterior to the posterior end of the vomer alae and invariably extended posterolaterally and superiorly to blend into the fibrous tissue around the lacerum ICA. The mean length of the ligament was 10.5 ± 1.7 mm. The mean distance between the anterior end of the ligament and midline was 5.2 ± 1.2 mm. The mean distance between the posterior end of the ligament and midline was 12.3 ± 1.4 mm. The bony pterygoclival groove was identified at the confluence of the vomer, pterygoid process of the sphenoid, and basilar part of the occipital bone, running from posterolateral to anteromedial. The mean length of the groove was 7.7 ± 1.8 mm. Its posterolateral end faced the anteromedial aspect of the foramen lacerum medial to the posterior end of the vidian canal. A clinical case illustration is also provided.
The pterygoclival ligament is a consistent landmark for localization of the lacerum ICA. It may be used as an adjunct or alternative to the vidian nerve to localize the ICA during endoscopic endonasal surgery.