Surgery for clival lesions: open resection versus the expanded endoscopic endonasal approach

Giorgio Carrabba, Amir R Dehdashti, Fred Gentili
Neurosurgical Focus 2008, 25 (6): E7

OBJECT: Clival lesions pose significant challenges with regard to their surgical management. The expanded endoscopic endonasal (EEE) approach is a promising minimally invasive technique for lesions of the central skull base. The authors' aim in the current paper was to discuss the surgical treatment of clival lesions and to present the technical details, indications, and limitations of the EEE approach. Data from a recent endoscopically treated group will be compared with findings in a previous cohort of patients treated via classic open anterior and lateral approaches.

METHODS: Since June 2005, 17 patients with clival lesions underwent surgery via the EEE approach. Suitable candidates were chosen according to lesion characteristics, clinical parameters, and surgical goals. Neurological outcomes, Karnofsky Performance Scale scores, the extent of lesion resection, and complications were evaluated among these patients. Eighteen percent of the patients in the endoscopic group presented with recurrent disease. Another series of 43 patients, who had undergone resection of clival lesions via an anterior (rhinotomy, maxillectomy, microscopic transsphenoidal surgery, or transoral surgery) or lateral (pterional, frontoorbitozygomatic, or combined suprainfratentorial retrosigmoid) approach, was similarly reviewed. Twenty-three of these patients (53%) presented with recurrent disease and thus had undergone prior surgery.

RESULTS: Following the EEE approach, 11 (79%) of 14 patients who had presented with neurological symptoms experienced improvement, and gross-total resection was achieved in 59% of the patients and subtotal removal in 41%. Complications included CSF leakage (24%), tension pneumocephalus (6%), and intracranial hematoma (6%). The patient with the latter complication was the only one who experienced permanent neurological worsening. In the open resection group, neurological worsening occurred in 33% of the patients (14 of 43). Total and grosstotal removals were achieved in 84% of patients and subtotal removal in 14%.

CONCLUSIONS: The EEE approach has been shown to be a safe and effective technique for the resection of clival lesions with limited lateral extension. The choice of surgical approach must be tailored according to both patient and tumor characteristics. Although the 2 patient series featured in this paper are not comparable-because of a selection bias-higher rates of neurological morbidity and total and gross-total resections were observed in the open resection group. Given the long survival of some patients, the EEE approach should be favored whenever reasonable.

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