Ophthalmoplegia is a rare complication of transsphenoidal surgery, only noted in a few studies. The purpose of this study was to analyze the complications of cranial nerve III, IV, or VI palsy after transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary adenoma and understand its physiopathology and outcome.
The authors retrospectively analyzed 24 cases of postoperative ophthalmoplegia selected from the 1694 patients operated via a transsphenoidal route in their department.
Two patients were operated on via microscopy and 22 via endoscopy. Patients operated on endoscopically had a greater risk of presenting with an extraocular nerve deficit postoperatively (p = 0.0115). It was found that an extension into or an invasion of the cavernous sinus (Knosp grade 3 or 4 on MRI, 18/24 patients) was correlated with a higher risk of postoperative ophthalmoplegia (p < 0.0001). The deficit was apparent immediately after surgery in 2 patients. For these 2 patients, the mechanisms of ophthalmoplegia were compression or intraoperative nerve lesion. The other 22 patients became symptomatic in the 12–72 hours following the surgery. The mechanisms implied in these cases were intrasellar compressive hematoma (4/22 cases), intracavernous hemorrhagic suffusion, or incomplete resection of the intracavernous portion of the tumor. All patients who did not present with oculomotor palsy immediately after surgery completely recovered their deficits in the 3 months that followed, while the other 2 experienced permanent damage.
Extraocular nerve dysfunction after transsphenoidal pituitary surgery is a rare complication that occurs more frequently in the case of the invasion or an important extension into the cavernous sinus. In this series, it also appears to be significantly more frequent in patients operated on via an endoscopic approach. Most patients have deficits that appear with a delay of 12–72 hours postoperatively and they are most likely to completely recover.