Lateral orbital wall approach to the cavernous sinus

Laboratory investigation

Tamer Altay M.D. 1 , Bhupendra C. K. Patel M.D., F.R.C.S. 2 and William T. Couldwell M.D., Ph.D. 1
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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Clinical Neurosciences Center, and
  • 2 Department of Ophthalmology, Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
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Object

Lesions of the cavernous sinus remain a technical challenge. The most common surgical approaches involve some variation of the standard frontotemporal craniotomy. Here, the authors describe a surgical approach to access the cavernous sinus that involves the removal of the lateral orbital wall.

Methods

To achieve exposure of the cavernous sinus, a lateral canthal incision is performed, and the lateral orbital rim and anterior lateral wall are removed, for later replacement at closure. The posterior lateral orbital wall is removed to the region of the superior and inferior orbital fissures. With reflection of the dural covering of the lateral cavernous sinus and removal of the anterior clinoid process, the cavernous sinus is exposed.

Results

Exposure and details of the procedure were derived from anatomical study in cadavers. After the approach, with removal of the anterior clinoid process, the entire cavernous sinus from the superior orbital fissure anteriorly to the Meckel cave posteriorly is exposed. More exposure to the lateral middle fossa, foramen spinosum, and petrous carotid artery is obtained by further removal of the lateral sphenoid wing. An illustrative case example for approaching a cavernous sinus meningioma is presented.

Conclusions

The translateral orbital wall approach provides a simple, rapid approach for lesions with primary or secondary involvement of the cavernous sinus. Advantages of this simple, extradural approach include the lack of brain retraction and no interruption of the temporalis muscle.

Abbreviations used in this paper:GSPN = greater superficial petrosal nerve; ICA = internal carotid artery.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: William T. Couldwell, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Neurosurgery, University of Utah, 175 North Medical Drive East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84132. email: neuropub@hsc.utah.edu.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online January 13, 2012; DOI: 10.3171/2011.12.JNS111251.

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