Clinical importance of the basal cavernous sinuses and cavernous carotid arteries relative to the pituitary gland and macroadenomas: quantitative analysis of the complete anatomy

Selcuk Yilmazlar, Hasan Kocaeli, Ozhan Eyigor, Bahattin Hakyemez, Ender Korfali
Surgical Neurology 2008, 70 (2): 165-74; discussion 174-5

BACKGROUND: It is unusual to encounter hemorrhagic complications caused by arterial or venous damage during TSS. Problems with these structures can lead to permanent disability or death. Our aim was to quantitatively analyze anatomical and radiologic relationships among the BCS, the CCA, and the pituitary gland, as these structures are accessed during TSS.

METHODS: Forty-nine formaldehyde-fixed, sellar-parasellar tissue blocks from adult cadavers were used to simulate accessing the BCSs via TSS. In each specimen, size of the pituitary gland and specific characteristics of each BCS and the horizontal segment of each CCA were recorded. Nine other specimens were used for histologic investigation and microanatomical measurements. To attest correlation between clinical data and cadaveric measurements, coronal MRI scans of 22 healthy adults as well as of 28 patients with macroadenomas were analyzed.

RESULTS: In cadaveric specimens, distances between both CCAs in the BCS were 17.1 +/- 4.0 mm anteriorly, 20.3 +/- 4.2 mm medially, and 18.8 +/- 4.6 mm posteriorly. In this study, the anterior medial space of the BCS was dominant in 12 specimens on the right side and in 5 specimens on the left; the posterior medial space of the BCS was dominant in 23 specimens on the right side and in 9 specimens on the left side. The right medial BCS was dominant in 35 specimens. On histologic coronal sections, some part of the carotid artery's (CA's) diameter was located below the line passing from the basal dural layer ranging from 5.3% to 65.4%. In normal-sella images, distances between both CCAs were 15.4 +/- 1.8 mm anteriorly, 16.0 +/- 2.8 mm medially, 16.2 +/- 3.4 mm posteriorly. On coronal normal-sella images, some part of the CA's diameter was located below the line passing from the basal dural layer ranging from 16.4% to 66.7%. In macroadenomas, distances between both CCAs were 22.0 +/- 3.6 mm anteriorly, 21.5 +/- 3.8 mm medially, and 20.7.2 +/- 3.7 mm posteriorly . On coronal images, in only 6 of 28 macroadenomas, some part of the CA's diameter was located below the line passing from the basal dural layer ranging from 12.5% to 100%.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that a working area of 15.0 +/- 2.6 x 10.3 +/- 2.1 mm is safe during TSS. The position of the CCA posterior segment was notably more caudal than the anterior segment with respect to the basal dura, which should be taken into account during extended exposure. Also, preoperative recognition of the anatomical variations is beneficial for detection of the boundaries of dissection, which is particularly important in the BCS, where variable course of CCAs may transform the anatomical configuration. Slowly growing pituitary adenomas stretch out both CCAs considerably from medial to lateral directions, and they cause widening of intercarotid distances in all segments. Processing of fixation, decalcification, and paraffin embedding for the cadaveric tissue in contrast to physiologically hydrated tissues may change the accuracy of measurements. These measurements are significantly different than those in the radiologic images when arterial blood under pressure is in the CCA as well as when venous blood fills the cavernous sinus as is the case in vivo. In clinical practice, these facts must be taken into consideration in the cadaveric measurements.

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