Locating the foramen ovale by using molar and inter-eminence planes: a guide for percutaneous trigeminal neuralgia procedures

J Neurosurg 132:624–630, 2020

The first attempt to cannulate the foramen ovale is often times unsuccessful and requires subsequent reattempts, thereby increasing the risk of an adverse event and radiation exposure to the patient and surgeon. Failure in cannulation may be attributable to variation in soft-tissue–based landmarks used for needle guidance. Also, the incongruity between guiding marks on the face and bony landmarks visible on fluoroscopic images may also complicate cannulation. Therefore, the object of this study was to assess the location of the foramen ovale by way of bony landmarks, exclusive of soft-tissue guidance.

METHODS A total of 817 foramina ovalia (411 left-sided, 406 right-sided) from cranial base images of 424 dry crania were included in the study. The centroid point of each foramen ovale was identified. A sagittal plane through the posterior-most molar (molar plane) and a coronal plane passing through the articular eminences of the temporal bones (inter-eminence plane) were superimposed on images. The distances of the planes from the centroids of the foramina were measured. Also, counts were taken to assess how often the planes and their intersections crossed the boundary of the foramen ovale.

RESULTS The average distance between the molar plane and the centroid of the foramen was 1.53 ± 1.24 mm (mean ± SD). The average distance between the inter-eminence plane and the centroid was 1.69 ± 1.49 mm. The molar and inter-eminence planes crossed through the foramen ovale boundary 83.7% (684/817) and 81.6% (667/817) of the time, respectively. The molar and inter-eminence planes passed through the boundary of the foramen together 73.5% (302/411) of the time. The molar and inter-eminence planes intersected within the boundary of the foramen half of the time (49.4%; 404/817).

CONCLUSIONS The results of this study provide a novel means of identifying the location of the foramen ovale. Unlike the soft-tissue landmarks used in the many variations of the route of Härtel, the bony landmarks identified in this study can be palpated, marked on the face, appreciated fluoroscopically, and do not require any measurement from soft-tissue structures. Utilizing the molar and inter-eminence planes as cannulation guides will improve the approach to the foramen ovale and decrease the amount of radiation exposure to both the patient and surgeon.