Transclival endoscopic endonasal surgery (EES) has recently been used for the treatment of posterior fossa tumors. The optimal method of reconstruction of large clival defects following EES has not been established.
A morphometric analysis of the posterior fossa was performed in patients who underwent transclival EES to compare those with observed postoperative anatomical changes (study group) to 50 normal individuals (anatomical control group) and 41 matched transclival cases with preserved posterior fossa anatomy (case-control group) using the same parameters. Given the absence of clival bone following transclival EES, the authors used the line between the anterior commissure and the basion as an equivalent to the clival plane to evaluate the location of the pons. Four parameters were studied and compared in the two populations: the pontine location/displacement, the maximum anteroposterior (AP) diameter of the pons, the maximum AP diameter of the fourth ventricle, and the cervicomedullary angle (CMA). All measurements were performed on midsagittal 3-month postoperative MR images in the study group.
Among 103 posterior fossa tumors treated with transclival EES, 14 cases (13.6%) with postoperative posterior fossa anatomy changes were identified. The most significant change was anterior displacement of the pons (transclival pontine encephalocele) compared with the normal location in the anatomical control group (p < 0.0001). Other significant deformities were expansion of the AP diameter of the pons (p = 0.005), enlargement of the fourth ventricle (p = 0.001), and decrease in the CMA (p < 0.0001). All patients who developed these changes had undergone extensive resection of the clival bone (> 50% of the clivus) and dura. Nine (64.3%) of the 14 patients were overweight (body mass index [BMI] > 25 kg/m2). An association between BMI and the degree of pontine encephalocele was observed, but did not reach statistical significance. The use of a fat graft as part of the reconstruction technique following transclival EES with dural opening was the single significant factor that prevented pontine displacement (p = 0.02), associated with 91% lower odds of pontine encephalocele (OR = 0.09, 95% CI 0.01–0.77). The effect of fat graft reconstruction was more pronounced in overweight/obese individuals (p = 0.04) than in normal-weight patients (p = 0.52). Besides reconstruction technique, other noticeable findings were the tendency of younger adults to develop pontine encephalocele (p = 0.05) and the association of postoperative meningitis with the development of posterior fossa deformities (p = 0.05). One patient developed a transient, recurrent subjective diplopia; all others remained asymptomatic.
Significant changes in posterior fossa anatomy that have potential clinical implications have been observed following transclival transdural EES. These changes are more common in younger patients or those with meningitis and may be associated with BMI. The use of a fat graft combined with the vascularized nasoseptal flap appears to minimize the risk of pontine herniation following transclival EES with dural opening.