The Surgical White Matter Chassis: A Practical 3-Dimensional Atlas for Planning Subcortical Surgical Trajectories

Operative Neurosurgery 14:469–482, 2018

The imperative role of white matter preservation in improving surgical functional outcomes is now recognized. Understanding the fundamental white matter framework is essential for translating the anatomic and functional literature into practical strategies for surgical planning and neuronavigation.

OBJECTIVE: To present a 3-dimensional (3-D) atlas of the structural and functional scaffolding of human white matter—ie, a “Surgical White Matter Chassis (SWMC)”—that can be used as an organizational tool in designing precise and individualized trajectorybased neurosurgical corridors.

METHODS: Preoperative diffusion tensor imaging magnetic resonance images were obtained prior to each of our last 100 awake subcortical resections, using a clinically available 3.0 Tesla system. Tractography was generated using a semiautomated deterministic global seeding algorithm. Tract data were conceptualized as a 3-D modular chassis based on the 3 major fiber types, organized along median and paramedian planes, with special attention to limbic and neocortical association tracts and their interconnections.

RESULTS: We discuss practical implementation of the SWMC concept, and highlight its use in planning select illustrative cases. Emphasis has been given to developing practical understanding of the arcuate fasciculus, uncinate fasciculus, and vertical rami of the superior longitudinal fasciculus, which are often-neglected fibers in surgical planning.

CONCLUSION: A working knowledge of white matter anatomy, as embodied in the SWMC, is of paramount importance to the planning of parafascicular surgical trajectories, and can serve as a basis for developing reliable safe corridors, or modules, toward the goal of “zerofootprint” transsulcal access to the subcortical space.