Extradural extranasal combined transmaxillary transsphenoidal approach to the cavernous sinus: a minimally invasive microsurgical model

I Sabit, S D Schaefer, W T Couldwell
Laryngoscope 2000, 110 (2): 286-91

UNLABELLED: The authors have previously described an extradural transmaxillary approach to the anterior compartment of the cavernous sinus. In an effort to expand the surgical access to that area without necessitating a craniotomy or wide transfacial dissection, they present a modification of the transmaxillary approach to the sellar region and cavernous sinus.

METHODS: The approach was developed on 12 fresh and 12 embalmed cadaveric specimen, and 2 dry skulls. The initial sublabial incision is followed by a maxillotomy to expose the course of the infraorbital nerve (terminal branch of maxillary branch of the trigeminal nerve) on the roof of the maxillary sinus. The route of the infraorbital nerve is traced to the pterygopalatine fossa as a guide to the foramen rotundum. Superomedial drilling of the foramen rotundum is then performed to reveal the contents of the superior orbital fissure. After the nerves are safely identified in the superior orbital fissure, medial enlargement of the window into the cavernous sinus is made possible by drilling the lateral and posterior wall and septum of the sphenoid sinus.

RESULTS: The combined transmaxillary transsphenoidal approach offers an excellent exposure of the sellar and infrasellar region. The approach offers clear visualization of the ipsilateral loop of the carotid artery, the pituitary fossa, and the cranial nerves of the ipsilateral cavernous sinus. Mean operative reach is 38 mm from the posterior wall of the maxillary sinus to the ipsilateral carotid loop and 56 mm to the contralateral loop. The width of the operative window is 26 mm at the base within the cavernous sinus.

CONCLUSION: The model offers a minimally invasive approach that avoids the need for craniotomy or violating the nasal cavity. It may be safely employed to access vascular as well as invasive lesions of the sellar and infrasellar region. The approach offers excellent visualization of the ipsilateral intracavernous carotid artery with both proximal and distal control, as well as cranial nerves III, IV, VI, V2, the hypophyseal region, and the medial aspect of the contralateral cavernous sinus.

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