Clival-Meckel’s Cave Angle: A Predictor of Glycerol Displacement in Percutaneous Glycerol Rhizotomy for Trigeminal Neuralgia

Operative Neurosurgery 26:141–148, 2024

Percutaneous glycerol rhizotomy successfully treats trigeminal neuralgia although failure rates and durability of the procedure are variable. Some of this variability in clinical outcome might be due to egress of glycerol from Meckel’s cave (MC) because of surgical positioning and individual patient anatomy. In this article, we quantitatively analyzed the anatomic variances that affect glycerol fluid dynamics to better predict patients more amenable for percutaneous glycerol injections.

METHODS: Computed tomography imaging of 11 cadaveric heads was used to calculate bilateral Clival-Meckel’s cave (CMC) and sella-temporal (ST) angles. Twenty-two cadaveric percutaneous injections of dyed glycerol into the Meckel’s cave were performed using H¨artel’s approach, and the fluid movement was documented at prespecified intervals over 1 hour. The relationship between the angles and glycerol migration was studied.

RESULTS: Specimens with basal cistern involvement by 60 minutes had significantly greater CMC angles (median [IQR]: basal cistern involvement = 74.5°[59.5°-89.5°] vs no basal cistern involvement = 58.0°[49.0°-67.0°]), U = 6.0, P < .001. This model may predict which patients will experience glycerol migration away from the Gasserian ganglion (area under the curve: 0.950, SE: 0.046, CI: 0.859-1.041, P < .001). Increased ST angle was associated with lateral flow of glycerol (r s = 0.639, P = .001), and CMC angle was associated with total area of dispersion (r s = À0.474, P = .026).

CONCLUSION: Anatomic variation in skull base angles affects glycerol migration. Specifically, a more obtuse CMC angle was associated with a higher risk of posterior migration away from the Gasserian ganglion. This may be a reason for differing rates of surgical success. These results suggest that anterior head flexion for 60 minutes may prevent percutaneous glycerol rhizotomy failures and some patients with large CMC angles are more likely to benefit from postinjection head positioning. However, this clinical effect needs validation in vivo.