Object. The goal of this study was to determine whether drilling out the occipital condyle facilitates surgery via the far-lateral approach by comparing data from 10 clinical cases with that from studies of eight cadaver heads.
Methods. During the last 6 years at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center—Shreveport, 10 patients underwent surgery via the far-lateral approach to the foramen magnum. Six of these patients harbored anterior foramen magnum meningiomas, one patient a dermoid cyst, two patients vertebral artery (VA) aneurysms, and an additional patient suffered from rheumatoid disease of the craniocervical junction. The surgical approach consisted of retromastoid craniectomy and C-1 laminectomy.
The seven tumors and the pannus of rheumatoid disease were completely excised, and the two aneurysms were clipped without drilling the occipital condyle. In one patient a chronic subdural hematoma was found 3 months after surgery, but no patient displayed any complication associated with surgery. It is significant that in no patient was a cerebrospinal fluid leak present. All patients experienced improved neurological function postoperatively.
To compare surgical visibility, eight cadaveric specimens (16 sides) were studied, including delineation of the VA and its segments around the craniocervical junction. Increase in visibility as a function of fractional removal of the occipital condyle was quantified by measuring the degrees of visibility gained by removing one third and one half of the occipital condyle. Removal of one third of the occipital condyle produced a mean increase of 15.9° visibility, and removal of one half produced a mean increase of 19.9°.
Conclusions. On the basis of their findings the authors conclude that removal of the occipital condyle is not necessary for the safe and complete resection of anterior intradural foramen magnum tumors.