Pedicled rhinotomy for clival chordomas invaginating the brainstem

G Harsh, R Ojemann, M Varvares, B Swearingen, M Cheney, M Joseph
Neurosurgical Focus 2001, 10 (3): E8

OBJECT: Clival chordomas are frequently midline lesions whose posterior growth may breach the dura and invaginate the brainstem. This precludes safe delivery of potentially curative high-dose fractionated proton radiotherapy. To avoid this problem, the authors performed pedicled rhinotomy to resect chordomas in 10 patients.

METHODS: Pedicled rhinotomy is a midface transnasal route to the intercarotid sella and clivus from the tuberculum sellae to the mid-C-2 level. It involves a lateral rhinotomy incision, osteotomies of nasal bones and cartilage, lateral rotation of the nose, removal of the nasal septum and medial maxillary walls, opening of ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses, and dissection of nasopharynx and oropharynx to expose the clivus and craniovertebral junction. Tumors involving the sella, medial cavernous sinuses, middle and lower clivus, and C-1 arch and dens can be removed even if they traverse the dura. Closure involves dural repair, grafting of fat and split-thickness skin, rotation of a vascularized mucosal pedicle, and reattachment of nasal cartilage. Ten clival chordomas in adult patients were surgically removed via a pedicled rhinotomy approach. Seven patients had previously undergone a total of nine skull base procedures. In eight of the 10 patients, tumors compressing the brainstem were completely removed using this technique. One patient required an additional subtemporal resection of a suprasellar tumor before definitive radiotherapy could be undertaken. No patient sustained any new neurological deficit; in eight patients headache, diplopia, or hemiparesis improved. One patient developed postoperative cerebrospinal fluid leakage and meningitis that were successfully treated with antibiotic agents and shunt placement.

CONCLUSIONS: Pedicled rhinotomy provides excellent shallow-field exposure of midline clival chordomas and permits relief of brainstem compression and the postoperative administration of potentially curative proton beam irradiation.

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