In this paper the authors describe a modified far-lateral transcondylar approach to remove hypoglossal neurilemmomas (HGNs).
Between September 2008 and June 2011, 11 consecutive patients with HGNs underwent tumor removal via a modified far-lateral transcondylar approach. The average age at presentation, tumor characteristics, cranial nerve (CN) deficits, and outcomes were assessed. The modified far-lateral transcondylar approach comprises several important steps. The first step is to remove the limited posterior aspect of the condylar facet to open the hypoglossal canal. The second step is to expose the posterior arch and the transverse process of C-1. A fat layer covers the venous plexus of the vertebral artery, and careful dissection along this surface of the fat layer is important to protect the vertebral artery from damage. The neck muscles are dissected caudally to expose the extracranial component of the tumor, which is located in front of the transverse process of C-1.
Eleven cases of HGNs were treated during the study period. The mean patient age was 47.4 ± 8.9 years (range 31–59 years); there were 3 men and 8 women. The mean follow-up period was 14.1 ± 9 months. All patients presented with hypoglossal nerve deficits; other commonly observed deficits included glossopharyngeal and vestibular/cochlear nerve deficits. Gross-total resection of the tumor was achieved in 10 patients. A subtotal resection of the tumor was achieved in the remaining patient. Two patients had transient postoperative facial nerve palsies, 1 patient developed a new CN XI palsy postoperatively, and 5 patients experienced transient hoarseness and difficulty swallowing. Two patients required a tracheotomy because they demonstrated dysfunction of the caudal CNs and subsequently developed postoperative pneumonia. Postoperatively, 5 patients required the temporary placement of a nasogastric feeding tube. There were no surgery-related deaths in this series.
The modified far-lateral transcondylar approach is an effective treatment for HGNs, yielding a high total tumor removal rate with an acceptable rate of morbidity.