Extensions of the Sphenoid Sinus: A New Classification

Neurosurgery. 66(4):797-816, April 2010. doi: 10.1227/01.NEU.0000367619.24800.B1

The transsphenoidal approach has been extended in recent years from tumors of the sellar region to lesions involving other areas bordering the sphenoid sinus including the cavernous sinus, Meckel’s cave, middle cranial fossa, planum sphenoidal, suprasellar region, and clivus. The goal of this study was to examine various pneumatized extensions of the sphenoid sinus that may facilitate extended approaches directed through the sinus.

METHODS: The sphenoid sinus and its surrounding structures were examined in 18 cadaver heads, and the results were correlated with the findings from 100 computed tomography images of the sinus. The sellar type of the sphenoid sinus in which the pneumatization extended beyond the anterior sellar wall was further classified according to the various extensions of the sinus.

RESULTS: The sellar type of the sphenoid sinus was classified into the following 6 basic types based on the direction of pneumatization: sphenoid body, lateral, clival, lesser wing, anterior, and combined. The recesses and prominences, formed by pneumatization of the sinus, act as “windows” opening from the sinus in different areas of the cranial base and may facilitate minimally invasive access to lesions in the corresponding areas.

CONCLUSION: The variations in the extensions of pneumatization of the sphenoid sinus may facilitate entry into areas bordering the sphenoid sinus and play a role in the selection of a surgical approach to lesions bordering the sinus.