A novel classification and management scheme for craniocervical junction disorders with ventral neural element compression

J Neurosurg 140:585–594, 2024

Craniocervical junction (CCJ) pathologies with ventral neural element compression are poorly understood, and appropriate management requires accurate understanding, description, and a more uniform nomenclature. The aim of this study was to evaluate patients to identify anatomical clusters and better classify CCJ disorders with ventral compression and guide treatment.

METHODS A retrospective review of adult and pediatric patients with ventral CCJ compression from 2008 to 2022 at a single center was performed. The incidence of anatomical abnormalities and compressive etiologies was assessed. Surgical approach, radiographic data, and outcomes were recorded. Association rules analysis (ARA) was used to assess variable clustering.

RESULTS Among 51 patients, the main causes of compression were either purely bony (retroflexed dens [n = 18]; basilar invagination [BI; n = 13]) or soft tissue (degenerative pannus [n = 16]; inflammatory pannus [n = 2]). The primary cluster in ARA was a retroflexed dens, platybasia, and Chiari malformation (CM), and the secondary cluster was BI, C1–2 subluxation, and reducibility. These, along with degenerative pannus, formed the three major classes. In assessing the optimal treatment strategy, reducibility was evaluated. Of the BI cases, 12 of the 13 patients had anterolisthesis of C1 that was potentially reducible, compared with 2 of the 18 patients with a retroflexed dens (both with concomitant BI), and no pannus cases. The mean C1–2 facet angle was significantly higher in BI at 32.4°, compared with −2.3° in retroflexed dens and 8.1° in degenerative pannus (p < 0.05). Endonasal decompression with posterior fixation was performed in 48 (94.0%) of the 51 patients, whereas posterior reduction/fixation alone was performed in 3 patients (6.0%). Of 16 reducible cases, open posterior reduction alone was successful in 3 (60.0%) of 5 cases, with all successes containing isolated BI. Reduction was not attempted if vertebral anatomy was unfavorable (n = 9) or the C1 lateral mass was absent (n = 5). The mean follow-up was 28 months. Symptoms improved in 88.9% of patients and were stable in the remaining 11.1%. Tracheostomy and percutaneous G-tube placement occurred in 7.8% and 11.8% of patients, respectively. Reoperation for an endonasal CSF leak repair or posterior cervical wound revision both occurred in 3.9% of patients.

CONCLUSIONS In classifying, one cluster caused decreased posterior fossa volume due to an anatomical triad of retroflexed dens, platybasia, and CM. The second cluster caused pannus formation due to degenerative hypertrophy. For both, endonasal decompression with posterior fixation was ideal. The third group contained C1 anterolisthesis characterized by a steep C1–2 facet angle causing reducible BI. Posterior reduction/fixation is the first-line treatment when anatomically feasible or endonasal decompression with in situ posterior fixation when anatomical constraints exist.

Endoscopic odontoidectomy for brainstem compression in association with posterior fossa decompression and occipitocervical fusion

J Neurosurg 139:1152–1159, 2023

Endonasal endoscopic odontoidectomy (EEO) is an alternative to transoral surgery for symptomatic ventral compression of the anterior cervicomedullary junction (CMJ), allowing for earlier extubation and feeding. Because the procedure destabilizes the C1–2 ligamentous complex, posterior cervical fusion is often performed concomitantly. The authors’ institutional experience was reviewed to describe the indications, outcomes, and complications in a large series of EEO surgical procedures in which EEO was combined with posterior decompression and fusion.

METHODS A consecutive, prospective series of patients who underwent EEO between 2011 and 2021 was studied. Demographic and outcome metrics, radiographic parameters, extent of ventral compression, extent of dens removal, and increase in CSF space ventral to the brainstem were measured on the preoperative and postoperative scans (first and most recent scans).

RESULTS Forty-two patients (26.2% pediatric) underwent EEO: 78.6% had basilar invagination, and 76.2% had Chiari type I malformation. The mean ± SD age was 33.6 ± 3.0 years, with a mean follow-up of 32.3 ± 4.0 months. The majority of patients (95.2%) underwent posterior decompression and fusion immediately before EEO. Two patients underwent prior fusion. There were 7 intraoperative CSF leaks but no postoperative CSF leaks. The inferior limit of decompression fell between the nasoaxial and rhinopalatine lines. The mean ± SD vertical height of dens resection was 11.98 ± 0.45 mm, equivalent to a mean ± SD resection of 74.18% ± 2.56%. The mean increase in ventral CSF space immediately postoperatively was 1.68 ± 0.17 mm (p < 0.0001), which increased to 2.75 ± 0.23 mm (p < 0.0001) at the most recent follow-up (p < 0.0001). The median (range) length of stay was 5 (2–33) days. The median time to extubation was 0 (0–3) days. The median time to oral feeding (defined as, at minimum, toleration of a clear liquid diet) was 1 (0–3) day. Symptoms improved in 97.6% of patients. Complications were rare and mostly associated with the cervical fusion portion of the combined surgical procedures.

CONCLUSIONS EEO is safe and effective for achieving anterior CMJ decompression and is often accompanied by posterior cervical stabilization. Ventral decompression improves over time. EEO should be considered for patients with appropriate indications.

Endoscopic odontoidectomy for brainstem compression in association with posterior fossa decompression and occipitocervical fusion

J Neurosurg 139:1152–1159, 2023

Endonasal endoscopic odontoidectomy (EEO) is an alternative to transoral surgery for symptomatic ventral compression of the anterior cervicomedullary junction (CMJ), allowing for earlier extubation and feeding. Because the procedure destabilizes the C1–2 ligamentous complex, posterior cervical fusion is often performed concomitantly. The authors’ institutional experience was reviewed to describe the indications, outcomes, and complications in a large series of EEO surgical procedures in which EEO was combined with posterior decompression and fusion.

METHODS A consecutive, prospective series of patients who underwent EEO between 2011 and 2021 was studied. Demographic and outcome metrics, radiographic parameters, extent of ventral compression, extent of dens removal, and increase in CSF space ventral to the brainstem were measured on the preoperative and postoperative scans (first and most recent scans).

RESULTS Forty-two patients (26.2% pediatric) underwent EEO: 78.6% had basilar invagination, and 76.2% had Chiari type I malformation. The mean ± SD age was 33.6 ± 3.0 years, with a mean follow-up of 32.3 ± 4.0 months. The majority of patients (95.2%) underwent posterior decompression and fusion immediately before EEO. Two patients underwent prior fusion. There were 7 intraoperative CSF leaks but no postoperative CSF leaks. The inferior limit of decompression fell between the nasoaxial and rhinopalatine lines. The mean ± SD vertical height of dens resection was 11.98 ± 0.45 mm, equivalent to a mean ± SD resection of 74.18% ± 2.56%. The mean increase in ventral CSF space immediately postoperatively was 1.68 ± 0.17 mm (p < 0.0001), which increased to 2.75 ± 0.23 mm (p < 0.0001) at the most recent follow-up (p < 0.0001). The median (range) length of stay was 5 (2–33) days. The median time to extubation was 0 (0–3) days. The median time to oral feeding (defined as, at minimum, toleration of a clear liquid diet) was 1 (0–3) day. Symptoms improved in 97.6% of patients. Complications were rare and mostly associated with the cervical fusion portion of the combined surgical procedures.

CONCLUSIONS EEO is safe and effective for achieving anterior CMJ decompression and is often accompanied by posterior cervical stabilization. Ventral decompression improves over time. EEO should be considered for patients with appropriate indications.

Basilar decompression via a far lateral transcondylar approach

Acta Neurochirurgica (2022) 164:2563–2572

Treatments for symptomatic or unstable basilar invagination (BI) include posterior decompression, distraction/ fusion, trans-nasal or trans-oral anterior decompression, and combined techniques, with the need for occipitocervical fusion based on the degree of craniocervical instability. Variations of the far lateral transcondylar approach are described in limited case series for BI, but have not been widely applied.

Methods A single-institution, retrospective review of consecutive patients undergoing a far lateral transcondylar approach for odontoidectomy (± resection of the inferior clivus) followed by occipitocervical fusion over a 6-year period (1/1/2016 to 12/31/2021) is performed. Detailed technical notes are combined with images from cadaveric dissections and patient surgeries to illustrate our technique using a lateral retroauricular incision.

Results Nine patients were identified (3 males, 6 females; mean age 40.2 ± 19.6 years). All patients had congenital or acquired BI causing neurologic deficits. There were no major neurologic or wound-healing complications. 9/9 patients (100%) experienced improvement in preoperative symptoms.

Conclusions The far lateral transcondylar approach provides a direct corridor for ventral brainstem decompression in patients with symptomatic BI. A comprehensive knowledge of craniovertebral junction anatomy is critical to the safe performance of this surgery, especially when using a lateral retroauricular incision.

Focused endoscopic endonasal craniocervical junction approach for resection of retro-odontoid lesions

Acta Neurochirurgica (2020) 162:1275–1280

Lesions posterior to the odontoid process pose a surgical challenge. Posterolateral approaches to this region are considerably risky for the spinal cord. Transoral approaches are limited in terms of exposure and can also carry morbidity.

Methods We describe a focused endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA) for removing an osteochondroma located dorsal to the odontoid process. The surgical pearls and pitfalls using stepwise image-guided EEA cadaveric dissections are highlighted defining the importance of various craniocervical junction (CCJ) lines on imaging.

Conclusion EEA to CCJ can be offered, with lower morbidity than other approaches, even for lesions that extend posterior and caudal to the odontoid process. Radiologic predictors of exposure and intraoperative techniques to enhance endoscopic visualization are discussed.

Endoscopic Transseptal Approach with Posterior Nasal Spine Removal: A Wide Surgical Corridor to the Craniovertebral Junction and Odontoid

World Neurosurg. (2018) 110:373-385

The transnasal approach to lesions involving the craniovertebral junction represents a technical challenge because of limited inferior exposure. The endoscopic transseptal approach (EtsA) with posterior nasal spine (PNS) removal is described. This technique can create a wide exposure of the craniovertebral junction, thereby increasing the caudal exposure.

METHODS: On patients undergoing anterior craniovertebral junction decompression, we calculated the degree of exposure on the sagittal plan through a paraseptal route, an EtsA without and with PNS removal. The horizontal exposure and working area with the latter approach were also evaluated.

RESULTS: Five patients underwent the transnasal procedure. The age of patients ranged from 34-71 years. All patients harbored basilar impression. The mean postoperative Nurick grade was improved versus the average preoperative grade. The average follow-up duration was 16 months. All patients underwent occipitocervical fixation. The mean vertical distances, from the clinoid recess to the inferior most limit with the paraseptal approach, EtsA without and with PNS removal were 38.52, 44.12, and 51.16 mm, respectively. The difference between our approach and a standard paraseptal route was statistically significant (P [ 0.041; P< 0.05). The mean horizontal distances were 31.68 mm (mononostril entry) and 35.37 mm (binostril entry). The mean working area was 1795.53 mm2.

CONCLUSIONS: Endoscopic endonasal approaches to the craniovertebral junction are increasing, but the downward extension on the anterior cervical spine represents a limit. Therefore, many surgeons prefer transoral or transcervical approaches. The EtsA with PNS removal allows for a more caudal exposure than the standard paraseptal approach, with reduced nasal trauma.

 

The endoscopic endonasal approach to the odontoid and its impact on early extubation and feeding

The endoscopic endonasal approach to the odontoid and its impact on early extubation and feeding-1

J Neurosurg 122:511–518, 2015

The gold-standard surgical approach to the odontoid is via the transoral route. This approach necessitates opening of the oropharynx and is associated with risks of infection, and swallowing and breathing complications. The endoscopic endonasal approach has the potential to reduce these complications as the oral cavity is avoided. There are fewer than 25 such cases reported to date. The authors present a consecutive, single-institution series of 9 patients who underwent the endonasal endoscopic approach to the odontoid.

Methods The charts of 9 patients who underwent endonasal endoscopic surgery to the odontoid between January 2005 and August 2013 were reviewed. The clinical presentation, radiographic findings, surgical management, complications, and outcome, particularly with respect to time to extubation and feeding, were analyzed. Radiographic measurements of the distance between the back of the odontoid and the front of the cervicomedullary junction (CMJ) were calculated, as well as the location of any residual bone fragments.

Results There were 7 adult and 2 pediatric patients in this series. The mean age of the adults was 54.8 years; the pediatric patients were 7 and 14 years. There were 5 females and 4 males. The mean follow-up was 42.9 months. Symptoms were resolved or improved in all but 1 patient, who had concurrent polyneuropathy. The distance between the odontoid and CMJ increased by 2.34 ± 0.43 mm (p = 0.03). A small, clinically insignificant fragment remained after surgery, always on the left side, in 57% of patients. Mean times to extubation and oral feeding were on postoperative Days 0.3 and 1, respectively. There was one posterior cervical wound infection; there were 2 cases of epistaxis requiring repacking of the nose and no instances of breathing or swallowing complications or velopharyngeal insufficiency.

Conclusions This series of 9 cases of endonasal endoscopic odontoidectomy highlights the advantages of the approach in permitting early extubation and early feeding and minimizing complications compared with transoral surgery. Special attention must be given to bone on the left side of the odontoid if the surgeon is standing on the right side.

The use of intraoperative navigation for complex upper cervical spine surgery

The use of intraoperative navigation for complex upper cervical spine surgery

Neurosurg Focus 36 (3):E5, 2014

Imaging guidance using intraoperative CT (O-arm surgical imaging system) combined with a navigation system has been shown to increase accuracy in the placement of spinal instrumentation. The authors describe 4 complex upper cervical spine cases in which the O-arm combined with the StealthStation surgical navigation system was used to accurately place occipital screws, C-1 screws anteriorly and posteriorly, C-2 lateral mass screws, and pedicle screws in C-6. This combination was also used to navigate through complex bony anatomy altered by tumor growth and bony overgrowth.

The 4 cases presented are: 1) a developmental deformity case in which the C-1 lateral mass was in the center of the cervical canal causing cord compression; 2) a case of odontoid compression of the spinal cord requiring an odontoidectomy in a patient with cerebral palsy; 3) a case of an en bloc resection of a C2–3 chordoma with instrumentation from the occiput to C-6 and placement of C-1 lateral mass screws anteriorly and posteriorly; and 4) a case of repeat surgery for a non-union at C1–2 with distortion of the anatomy and overgrowth of the bony structure at C-2.

Endoscopic transnasal odontoidectomy to treat basilar invagination with congenital osseous malformations

Basilar invagination

Eur Spine J (2013) 22:1127–1136

Transoral resection of the odontoid has been accepted as a standard procedure to decompress the cervicomedullary junction during the past several decades. The endoscopic transnasal odontoidectomy is emerging as a feasible surgical alternative to conventional microscopic transoral approach. In this article, we describe several operative nuances and pearls from our experience about this approach, which provided successful decompression.

Methods From September 2009 to April 2010, three consecutive patients with basilar invagination, of which the etiology was congenital osseous malformations, underwent endoscopic transnasal odontoidectomy. All patients presented with myelopathy. The last two cases also received occipitocervical fixation and bone fusion during the same surgical episode to ensure stability.

Results All the patients were extubated after recovery from anesthesia and allowed oral food intake the next day. Cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea was found in the second case and cured by continuous lumber drainage of cerebrospinal fluid. No infection was noted. The average follow- up time was more than 24 months. Remarkable neurological recovery was observed postoperative in all patients.

Conclusion The endoscopic transnasal odontoidectomy is a feasible approach for anterior decompression of pathology at the cervicomedullary junction. The advantages over the standard transoral odontoidectomy include elimination of risk of tongue swelling and teeth damaging, improvement of visualization, alleviation of prolonged intubation, reduction of need for enteral tube feeding and less risk of affecting phonation. The minimally invasive access and faster recovery associated with this technique make it a valid alternative for decompression of the ventral side of the cervicomedullary junction

The Naso-Axial Line: A New Method of Accurately Predicting the Inferior Limit of the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach to the Craniovertebral Junction

The Naso-Axial Line- A New Method of Accurately Predicting the Inferior Limit of the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach to the Craniovertebral Junction

Neurosurgery 71[ONS Suppl 2]:ons308–ons314, 2012

The endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA) has developed as an emerging surgical corridor to the craniovertebral junction (CVJ). In addition to understanding its indications and surgical anatomy, the ability to predict its inferior limit is vital for optimal surgical planning.

OBJECTIVE: To develop a method that accurately predicts the inferior limit of the EEA on the CVJ radiologically and to compare this with other currently used methods.

METHODS: Predissection computerized tomographic scans of 9 cadaver heads were used to delineate a novel line, the naso-axial line (NAxL), to predict the inferior EEA limit on the upper cervical spine. A previously described method with the use of the nasopalatine line (NPL or Kassam line) was also used. On computerized tomographic scans obtained following dissection of the EEA, the predicted inferior limits were compared with the actual extent of dissection.

RESULTS: The postdissection inferior EEA limit ranged from the dens tip to the upper half of the C2 body, which matched the limit predicted by NAxL, with no statistically significant difference between them. In contrast to the NAxL, the NPL predicted a significantly lower EEA limit (P , .001), ranging from the lower half of the C2 body to the superior end plate of C3.

CONCLUSION: The novel NAxL more accurately predicts the inferior limit of the EEA than the NPL. This method, which can be easily used on preoperative sagittal scans, accounts for variations in patients’ anatomy and can aid surgeons in the assessment of the EEA to address caudal CVJ pathology.