Veins of the Cerebellopontine Angle and Specific Complications of Sacrifice, with Special Emphasis on Microvascular Decompression Surgery

World Neurosurg. (2018) 117:422-432

Good knowledge of the anatomy of veins is of crucial importance for the functional surgery of cranial nerve (CN) disorders, especially microvascular decompression for trigeminal neuralgia (TN), hemifacial spasm (HFS), and vagoglossopharyngeal neuralgia (VGPN). Although controversial, veins may be involved in neurovascular conflicts and may constitute dangerous obstacles to access to the CNs. With the aim of estimating the implications of veins in those diseases and evaluating the linked surgical difficulties, we carried out a review of the literature from 2000 to the end of February 2018.

For this review, articles found on PubMed that gave enough precision about veins were retained (39 articles on TN, 38 on HFS, 8 on VGPN, and 26 on complications related to venous sacrifices). Before this review, we described a simplified anatomic classification of veins, amenable to easing the surgical approach to CNs.

Access to the trigeminal nerve, via the infratentorial-supracerebellar route, is almost always affected by the superficial superior petrosal venous system, whereas access to the facial and cochleovestibular complex as well as to the lower CNs, through the infrafloccular trajectory, is almost always exempt of important venous obstacles. Respective incidences of venous compression at the origin of hyperactive CN syndromes are given. The percentages of a venous conflict alone were calculated at 10.8% for TN, 0.1% for HFS, and 2.9% for VGPN.

We review the complications considered in relation with venous sacrifices. Precautions to minimize these complications are given.