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.

The medial wall of the cavernous sinus. Part 2: Selective medial wall resection in 50 pituitary adenoma patients

J Neurosurg 131:131–140, 2019

Pituitary adenomas often invade the medial wall of the cavernous sinus (CS), but this structure is generally not surgically removed because of the risk of vascular and cranial nerve injury. The purpose of this study was to report the surgical outcomes in a large series of cases of invasive pituitary adenoma in which the medial wall of the CS was selectively removed following an anatomically based, stepwise surgical technique.

METHODS The authors’ institutional database was reviewed to identify cases of pituitary adenoma with isolated invasion of the medial wall, based on an intraoperative evaluation, in which patients underwent an endoscopic endonasal approach with selective resection of the medial wall of the CS. Cases with CS invasion beyond the medial wall were excluded. Patient complications, resection, and remission rates were assessed.

RESULTS Fifty patients were eligible for this study, 15 (30%) with nonfunctional adenomas and 35 (70%) with functional adenomas, including 16 growth hormone–, 10 prolactin-, and 9 adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)–secreting tumors. The average tumor size was 2.3 cm for nonfunctional and 1.3 cm for functional adenomas. Radiographically, 11 cases (22%) were Knosp grade 1, 23 (46%) Knosp grade 2, and 16 (32%) Knosp grade 3. Complete tumor resection, based on intraoperative impression and postoperative MRI, was achieved in all cases. The mean follow-up was 30 months (range 4–64 months) for patients with functional adenomas and 16 months (range 4–30 months) for those with nonfunctional adenomas. At last follow-up, complete biochemical remission (using current criteria) without adjuvant treatment was seen in 34 cases (97%) of functional adenoma. No imaging recurrences were seen in patients who had nonfunctional adenomas. A total of 57 medial walls were removed in 50 patients. Medial wall invasion was histologically confirmed
in 93% of nonfunctional adenomas and 83% of functional adenomas. There were no deaths or internal carotid artery injuries, and the average blood loss was 378 ml. Four patients (8%) developed a new, transient cranial nerve palsy, and 2 of these patients required reoperation for blood clot evacuation and fat graft removal. There were no permanent cranial nerve palsies.

CONCLUSIONS The medial wall of the CS can be removed safely and effectively, with minimal morbidity and excellent resection and remission rates. Further follow-up is needed to determine the long-term results of this anatomically based technique, which should only be performed by very experienced endonasal skull base teams.

The medial wall of the cavernous sinus. Part 1: Surgical anatomy, ligaments, and surgical technique for its mobilization and/or resection

J Neurosurg 131:122–130, 2019

The medial wall of the cavernous sinus (CS) is often invaded by pituitary adenomas. Surgical mobilization and/or removal of the medial wall remains a challenge.

METHODS Endoscopic endonasal dissection was performed in 20 human cadaver heads. The configuration of the medial wall, its relationship to the internal carotid artery (ICA), and the ligamentous connections in between them were investigated in 40 CSs.

RESULTS The medial wall of the CS was confirmed to be an intact single layer of dura that is distinct from the capsule of the pituitary gland and the periosteal layer that forms the anterior wall of the CS. In 32.5% of hemispheres, the medial wall was indented by and/or well adhered to the cavernous ICA. The authors identified multiple ligamentous fibers that anchored the medial wall to other walls of the CS and/or to specific ICA segments. These parasellar ligaments were clas- sified into 4 groups: 1) caroticoclinoid ligament, spanning from the medial wall and the middle clinoid toward the clinoid ICA segment and anterior clinoid process; 2) superior parasellar ligament, connecting the medial wall to the horizontal cavernous ICA and/or lateral wall of the CS; 3) inferior parasellar ligament, bridging the medial wall to the anterior wall of the CS or anterior surface of the short vertical segment of the cavernous ICA; and 4) posterior parasellar ligament, which anchors the medial wall to the short vertical segment of the cavernous ICA and/or the posterior carotid sulcus. The caroticoclinoid ligament and inferior parasellar ligament were present in most CSs (97.7% and 95%, respectively), while the superior and posterior parasellar ligaments were identified in approximately half of the CSs (57.5% and 45%, respec- tively). The caroticoclinoid ligament was the strongest and largest ligament, and it was typically assembled as a group of ligaments with a fan-like arrangement. The inferior parasellar ligament was the first to be encountered after opening the anterior wall of the CS during an interdural transcavernous approach.

CONCLUSIONS The authors introduce a classification of the parasellar ligaments and their role in anchoring the medial wall of the CS. These ligaments should be identified and transected to safely mobilize the medial wall away from the cavernous ICA during a transcavernous approach and for safe and complete resection of adenomas that selectively invade the medial wall.