The “candy wrapper” of the pituitary gland: a road map to the parasellar ligaments and the medial wall of the cavernous sinus

Acta Neurochirurgica (2023) 165:3431–3444

The anatomy of the medial wall of the cavernous sinus (MWCS) and parasellar ligaments (PLs) has acquired increasing importance in endoscopic endonasal (EE) surgery of the cavernous sinus (CS), including resection of the MWCS in functioning pituitary adenomas (FPAs). Although anatomical studies have been published, it represents a debated topic due to their complex morphology. The aim is to offer a description of the PLs that originate from the MWCS and reach the lateral wall of the cavernous sinus (LWCS), proposing the “candy wrapper” model. The relationships between the neurovascular structures and histomorphological aspects were investigated.

Methods Forty-two CSs from twenty-one human heads were studied. Eleven specimens were used for EE dissection; five underwent a microscopic dissection. Five specimens were used for histomorphological analysis.

Results Two groups of PLs with a fan-shaped appearance were encountered. The anterior group included the periosteal ligament (55% sides) and the carotico-clinoid complex (100% sides), formed by the anterior horizontal and the carotico-clinoid ligaments. The posterior group was formed by the posterior horizontal (78% sides), and the inferior hypophyseal ligament (34% sides). The periosteal ligament originated inferiorly from the MWCS, reaching the periosteal dura. The anterior horizontal ligament was divided in a superior and inferior branch. The superior one continued as the carotid-oculomotor membrane, and the inferior branch reached the CN VI. The carotico-clinoid ligament between the middle and anterior clinoid was ossified in 3 sides. The posterior horizontal ligament was related to the posterior genu and ended at the LWCS. The inferior hypophyseal ligament followed the homonym artery. The ligaments related to the ICA form part of the adventitia. Conclusion The “candy wrapper” model adds further details to the previous descriptions of the PLs. Understanding this complex anatomy is essential for safe CS surgery, including MWCS resection for FPAs.