Variations on the standard transsphenoidal approach to the sellar region, with emphasis on the extended approaches and parasellar approaches: surgical experience in 105 cases

William T Couldwell, Martin H Weiss, Craig Rabb, James K Liu, Ronald I Apfelbaum, Takanori Fukushima
Neurosurgery 2004, 55 (3): 539-47; discussion 547-50

OBJECTIVE: The traditional boundaries of the transsphenoidal approach may be expanded to include the region from the cribriform plate of the anterior cranial base to the inferior clivus in the anteroposterior plane, and laterally to expose the cavernous cranial nerves and the optic canal. We review our combined experience with these variations on the transsphenoidal approach to various lesions of the sellar and parasellar region.

METHODS: From 1982 to 2003, we used the extended and parasellar transsphenoidal approaches in 105 patients presenting with a variety of lesions of the parasellar region. This study specifically reviews the breadth of pathological lesions operated and the complications associated with the approaches.

RESULTS: Variations of the standard transsphenoidal approach have been used in the following series: 30 cases of pituitary adenomas extending laterally to involve the cavernous sinus, 27 craniopharyngiomas, 11 tuberculum/diaphragma sellae meningiomas, 10 sphenoid sinus mucoceles, 18 clivus chordomas, 4 cases of carcinoma of the sphenoid sinus, 2 cases of breast carcinoma metastatic to the sella, and 3 cases of monostotic fibrous dysplasia involving the clivus. There was no mortality in the series. Permanent neurological complications included one case of monocular blindness, one case of permanent diabetes insipidus, and two permanent cavernous cranial neuropathies. There were four cases of internal carotid artery hemorrhage, one of which required ligation of the cervical internal carotid artery and resulted in hemiparesis. The incidence of postoperative cerebrospinal fluid fistulae was 6% (6 of 105 cases).

CONCLUSION: These modifications of the standard transsphenoidal approach are useful for lesions within the boundaries noted above, they offer excellent alternatives to transcranial approaches for these lesions, and they avoid prolonged exposure time and brain retraction. Technical details are discussed and illustrative cases presented.

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