Access to Meckel’s cave for biopsies of indeterminate lesions

Neurosurgical Review (2021) 44:249–259

Accessing Meckel’s cave (MC) is surgically challenging. Open approaches are complex and often correlated with high morbidity. Endoscopic approaches emerged in the last decade as feasible alternatives to open approaches, especially for sampling indeterminate lesions.

This article first analyses available routes to approach Meckel’s cave and presents furthermore an illustrative case. We conducted a systematic review and reported according to the guidelines for preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA). Various surgical approaches identified through the search are evaluated and discussed in detail. Additionally, we report on a case of woman with a lesion in MC, which was accessed through an endoscopic transpterygoid approach subsequently diagnosed as a diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Our search delivered 75 articles that included case reports (n = 21), cadaveric studies (n = 32), clinical articles (n = 16), review of the literatures (n = 3), as well as technical notes (n = 2) and a radiological manuscript (n = 1).

Open routes included lateral approaches with many variations, mainly intra- and extradural pterional approaches and anterior petrosal, as well as a retrosigmoid intradural suprameatal and a lateral transorbital approach.

Endoscopically, MC was reached via approaches that included transpterygoid, transorbital or infraorbital fissure routes.

Percutaneous approaches, e.g. through the foramen ovale, were also described. Multiple surgical approaches to MC are currently available.

Their different characteristics as well as individual patient factors, such as clinical history and the localization of the disease, have to be considered when choosing a surgical corridor.

Studies included in this review highlight the endonasal endoscopic transpterygoidal technique as an excellent corridor for biopsies in the ventral MC.