The mini-combined transpetrosal approach: an anatomical study and comparison with the combined transpetrosal approach

Acta Neurochirurgica (2022) 164:1079–1093

The combined transpetrosal approach (CTPA) is a versatile technique suitable for challenging skull base pathologies. Despite the advantages provided by a wide surgical exposure, the soft tissue trauma, complex and time-consuming bony work, and cosmetic issues make it far from patient expectations. In this study, the authors describe a less invasive modification of the CTPA, the mini-combined transpetrosal approach (mini-CTPA), and perform a quantitative comparison between these two approaches.

Methods Five human specimens were used for this study. CTPA was performed on one side and mini-CTPA on the opposite side. The surgical freedom, petroclival and brainstem area of exposure, and maneuverability for 6 anatomical targets, provided by the CTPA and mini-CTPA, were calculated and statistically compared. The bony volumes corresponding to each anterior petrosectomy were also measured and compared. Three clinical cases with an operative video are also reported to illustrate the effectiveness of the approach.

Results The question-mark skin incision done along the muscle attachments permits an optimal cosmetic result. Even though the limited incision, the smaller craniotomy, and the less extensive bone drilling of mini-CTPA provide a smaller area of surgical freedom, the areas of exposure of petroclival region and brainstem were not statistically different between the two approaches. The antero-posterior maneuverability for the oculomotor foramen (OF), Meckel’s cave (MC) and the REZ of trigeminal nerve, and the supero-inferior maneuverability for OF, MC, Dorello’s canal, and REZ of CN VII are significantly reduced by the smaller opening. The bony volume of anterior petrosectomy resulted similar among the approaches.

Conclusions The mini-CTPA is an interesting alternative to the CTPA, providing comparable surgical exposure both for petroclival region and for brainstem. Although the lesser soft tissue dissection and bony opening decrease the surgical maneuverability, the mini-CTPA may reduce surgical time, potential approach-related morbidities, and improve cosmetic and functional outcomes for the patients.

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