Quantitative description of the far-lateral transcondylar transtubercular approach to the foramen magnum and clivus

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  • 1 Departments of Neurological Surgery and Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon
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Object. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the far-lateral transcondylar transtubercular approach (complete FLA) based on quantitative measurements of the exposure of the foramen magnum and petroclival area obtained after each successive step of this approach.

Methods. The complete FLA was reproduced in eight specially prepared cadaveric heads (a total of 15 sides). The approach was divided into six steps: 1) C-1 hemilaminectomy and suboccipital craniectomy with unroofing of the sigmoid sinus (basic FLA); 2) partial resection of the occipital condyle (up to the hypoglossal canal); 3) removal of the jugular tuberculum; 4) mastoidectomy (limited to the labyrinth and the fallopian canal) and retraction of the sigmoid sinus; 5) resection of the lateral mass of C-1 with mobilization of the vertebral artery; and 6) resection of the remaining portion of the occipital condyle. After each successive step, a standard set of measurements was obtained using a frameless stereotactic device. The measurements were used to estimate two parameters: the size of the exposed petroclival area and the size of a spatial cone directed toward the anterior rim of the foramen magnum, which depicts the amount of surgical freedom available for manipulation of instruments.

The initial basic FLA provided exposure of only 21 ± 6% of the petroclival area that was exposed with the full, six-step maximally aggressive (complete) FLA. Likewise, only 18 ± 9% of the final surgical freedom was obtained after the basic FLA was performed. Each subsequent step of the approach increased both petroclival exposure and surgical freedom. The most dramatic increase in petroclival exposure was noted after removal of the jugular tuberculum (71 ± 12% of final exposure), whereas the least improvement in exposure occurred after the final step, which consisted of total condyle resection.

Conclusions. The complete FLA provides wide and sufficient exposure of the foramen magnum and lower to middle clivus. The complete FLA consists of several steps, each of which contributes to increasing petroclival exposure and surgical freedom. However, the FLA may be limited to the less aggressive steps, while still achieving significant exposure and surgical freedom. The choice of complete or basic FLA thus depends on the underlying pathological condition and the degree of exposure required for effective surgical treatment.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Johnny B. Delashaw, Jr., M.D., Department of Neurological Surgery, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon 97201. email: delashaw@ohsu.edu.
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