Surgical treatment of pathological processes involving the ventral craniocervical junction (CCJ) traditionally involves anterior and posterolateral skull base approaches. In cases of bilateral extension, when lesions extend beyond the midline to the contralateral side, a unilateral corridor may result in suboptimal resection. In these cases, the lateral extent of the tumor will prevent extirpation of the lesion via anterior surgical approaches. The authors describe a unilateral operative corridor developed along an extreme lateral trajectory to the anterior aspect of the clival and upper cervical dura, allowing exposure and resection of tumor on the contralateral side. This approach is used when the disease involves the bone structures inherent to stability at the anterior CCJ.
To achieve exposure of the ventral CCJ, an extreme lateral transcondylar transodontoid (ELTO) approach was performed with transposition of the ipsilateral vertebral artery, followed by drilling of the C1 anterior arch. Resection of the odontoid process allowed access to the contralateral component of lesions across the midline to the region of the extracranial contralateral vertebral artery, maximizing resection.
Exposure and details of the surgical procedure were derived from anatomical cadavers. At the completion of cadaveric dissection, morphometric measurements of the relevant anatomical landmarks were obtained. Illustrative case examples for approaching ventral CCJ chordomas via the ELTO approach are presented.
The ELTO approach provides a safe and direct surgical corridor to treat complex lesions at the ventral CCJ with bilateral extension through a single operative corridor. This approach can be combined with other lateral approaches or posterior infratemporal approaches to remove more extensive lesions involving the rostral clivus, jugular foramen, and temporal bone.