The basal encephalocele (BEC) is the rarest form of encephalocele, with an incidence of about 1/35,000 live births. The incidence of its subtype, sphenoidal BEC, is even lower at about 1/700,000 live births. The aim of this study was to propose the optimal surgical approach to repairing BEC, with special attention to the reconstruction of the skull base bone defect.
Fourteen consecutive pediatric patients with BEC who underwent surgical repair between March 2004 and March 2020 (10 boys and 4 girls, age 25 days to 7 years, median age 4 months) were enrolled. The follow-up period of the surviving patients ranged from 53 to192 months (mean 119.8 months). The patient demographics, BEC subtypes, preoperative clinical condition, radiographic findings, surgical procedures, and postoperative course were retrospectively analyzed.
There were 4, 8, and 2 cases of sphenoidal BEC, sphenoethmoidal BEC, and ethmoidal BEC, respectively. The size of the bone defect was small in 3 patients, medium in 7, and large in 4 patients. All the patients with sphenoethmoidal and ethmoidal BEC showed associated congenital anomalies other than cleft palate. In total, 25 operations were performed. Two patients underwent multiple operations, whereas the remaining 9 patients received only 1 operation. The transoral transpalatal approach was the initial procedure used in all 14 patients. The transfrontobasal approach was applied as an additional procedure in 2 patients and as part of a 1-stage combined operation in 2 patients. Autograft bone alone was used for skull base reconstruction in 17 early operations. A titanium mesh/plate was used in the remaining 8 operations without any perioperative complications. All BECs were successfully repaired. Three patients died during the clinical course due to causes unrelated to their surgery. All but one of the surviving patients started growth hormone replacement therapy before school age.
Based on the authors’ limited experience, the key to successful BEC repair involves circumferential dissection of the BEC and a firm reconstruction of the skull base bone defect with a titanium plate/mesh. The transoral transpalatal approach is a promising, reliable procedure that may be used in the initial operation. When a cleft palate is absent, transnasal endoscopic repair is recommended. The transfrontobasal approach should be reserved for cases with a huge BEC and other anomalies. Long-term prognosis is apparently favorable in survivors.