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Anatomical considerations and surgical manipulation of the rhomboid lip in microvascular decompression for hemifacial spasm.

BACKGROUND: In microvascular decompression (MVD) procedures for hemifacial spasm (HFS), surgeons often encounter a rhomboid lip which may obscure the root exit zone (REZ) of the facial nerve. This study aims to explore the anatomical variations of rhomboid lips and their surgical implications to improve safety and effectiveness in MVD surgeries.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis was conducted on 111 patients treated for HFS between April 2021 and March 2023. The presence of a rhomboid lip was assessed through operative video records, and its characteristics, dissection methods, and impact on nerve decompression outcomes were further examined. Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were reviewed for detectability of the rhomboid lip.

RESULTS: Rhomboid lips were identified in 33% of the patients undergoing MVD, with a higher prevalence in females and predominantly on the left side. Two distinct types of rhomboid lips were observed: membranous and cystic variations. The membranous type was noted for its smaller size and position ventral to the choroid plexus. In contrast, the cystic variation was distinguished by its larger size and a thin membrane that envelops the choroid plexus. Preoperative MRI successfully identified rhomboid lips in only 21% of the patients who were later confirmed to have them in the surgical procedures. Surgical approaches primarily involved incisions on the dorsal wall and along the glossopharyngeal nerve root, with only limited need for extensive dissection from lower cranial nerves. Immediate spasm relief was observed in 97% of the patients. One case exhibited a lower cranial nerve deficit accompanied by brainstem infarction, which was caused by the dissection from the lower cranial nerves.

CONCLUSIONS: Recognizing the two variations of the rhomboid lip and understanding their anatomical structures are essential for reducing lower cranial nerve injuries and ensuring effective nerve decompression.

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