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Matei A. Banu, Oszkar Szentirmai, Lino Mascarenhas, Al Amin Salek, Vijay K. Anand and Theodore H. Schwartz


Postoperative pneumocephalus is a common occurrence after endoscopic endonasal skull base surgery (ESBS). The risk of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks can be high and the presence of postoperative pneumocephalus associated with serosanguineous nasal drainage may raise suspicion for a CSF leak. The authors hypothesized that specific patterns of pneumocephalus on postoperative imaging could be predictive of CSF leaks. Identification of these patterns could guide the postoperative management of patients undergoing ESBS.


The authors queried a prospectively acquired database of 526 consecutive ESBS cases at a single center between December 1, 2003, and May 31, 2012, and identified 258 patients with an intraoperative CSF leak documented using intrathecal fluorescein. Postoperative CT and MRI scans obtained within 1–10 days were examined and pneumocephalus was graded based on location and amount. A discrete 0–4 scale was used to classify pneumocephalus patterns based on size and morphology. Pneumocephalus was correlated with the surgical approach, histopathological diagnosis, and presence of a postoperative CSF leak.


The mean follow-up duration was 56.7 months. Of the 258 patients, 102 (39.5%) demonstrated pneumocephalus on postoperative imaging. The most frequent location of pneumocephalus was frontal (73 [71.5%] of 102), intraventricular (34 [33.3%]), and convexity (22 [21.6%]). Patients with craniopharyngioma (27 [87%] of 31) and meningioma (23 [68%] of 34) had the highest incidence of postoperative pneumocephalus compared with patients with pituitary adenomas (29 [20.6%] of 141) (p < 0.0001). The incidence of pneumocephalus was higher with transcribriform and transethmoidal approaches (8 of [73%] 11) than with a transsellar approach (9 of [7%] 131). There were 15 (5.8%) of 258 cases of postoperative CSF leak, of which 10 (66.7%) had pneumocephalus, compared with 92 (38%) of 243 patients without a postoperative CSF leak (OR 3.3, p = 0.027). Pneumocephalus located in the convexity, interhemispheric fissure, sellar region, parasellar region, and perimesencephalic region was significantly correlated with a postoperative CSF leak (OR 4.9, p = 0.006) and was therefore termed “suspicious” pneumocephalus. In contrast, frontal or intraventricular pneumocephalus was not correlated with postoperative CSF leak (not significant) and was defined as “benign” pneumocephalus. The amount of convexity pneumocephalus (p = 0.002), interhemispheric pneumocephalus (p = 0.005), and parasellar pneumocephalus (p = 0.007) (determined using a scale score of 0–4) was also significantly related to postoperative CSF leaks. Using a series of permutation-based multivariate analyses, the authors established that a model containing the learning curve, the transclival/transcavernous approach, and the presence of “suspicious” pneumocephalus provides the best overall prediction for postoperative CSF leaks.


Postoperative pneumocephalus is much more common following extended approaches than following transsellar surgery. Merely the presence of pneumocephalus, particularly in the frontal or intraventricular locations, is not necessarily associated with a postoperative CSF leak. A “suspicious” pattern of air, namely pneumocephalus in the convexity, interhemispheric fissure, sella, parasellar, or perimesencephalic locations, is significantly associated with a postoperative CSF leak. The presence and the score of “suspicious” pneumocephalus on postoperative imaging, in conjunction with the learning curve and the type of endoscopic approach, provide the best predictive model for postoperative CSF leaks.

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Oszkar Szentirmai, Yuan Hong, Lino Mascarenhas, Al Amin Salek, Philip E. Stieg, Vijay K. Anand, Aaron A. Cohen-Gadol and Theodore H. Schwartz


The expansion of endovascular procedures for obliteration of cerebral aneurysms highlights one of the drawbacks of clip ligation through the transcranial route, namely brain retraction or brain transgression. Sporadic case reports have emerged over the past 10 years describing endonasal endoscopic clip ligation of cerebral aneurysms. The authors present a detailed anatomical study to evaluate the feasibility of an endoscopic endonasal approach for application of aneurysm clips.


Nine human cadaveric head specimens were used to evaluate operative exposures for clip ligation of aneurysms in feasible anterior and posterior circulation locations. Measurements of trajectories were completed using a navigation system to calculate skull base craniectomy size, corridor space, and the surgeon's ability to gain proximal and distal control of parent vessels.


In each of the 9 cadaveric heads, excellent exposure of the target vessels was achieved. The transplanum, transtuberculum, and transcavernous approaches were used to explore the feasibility of anterior circulation access. Application of aneurysm clips was readily possible to the ophthalmic artery, A1 and A2 segments of the anterior cerebral artery, anterior communicating artery complex, and the paraclinoid and paraclival internal carotid artery. The transclival approach was explored, and clips were successfully deployed along the proximal branches of the vertebrobasilar system and basilar trunk and bifurcation. The median sizes of skull base craniectomy necessary for exposure of the anterior communicating artery complex and basilar tip were 3.24 cm2 and 4.62 cm2, respectively. The mean angles of surgical corridors to the anterior communicating artery complex and basilar tip were 11.4° and 14°, respectively. Although clip placement was feasible on the basilar artery and its branches, the associated perforating arteries were difficult to visualize, posing unexpected difficulty for safe clip application, with the exception of ventrolateral-pointing aneurysms.


The authors characterize the feasibility of endonasal endoscopic clip ligation of aneurysms involving the paraclinoid, anterior communicating, and basilar arteries and proximal control of the paraclival internal carotid artery. The endoscopic approach should be initially considered for nonruptured aneurysms involving the paraclinoid and anterior communicating arteries, as well as ventrolateral basilar trunk aneurysms. Clinical experience will be mandatory to determine the applicability of this approach in practice.