Background: Submucosal dissection of the nasal septum is often performed as part of the transseptal approach to the sella. To evaluate whether this submucosal dissection is a necessary component of this operation, we compared the morbidity of a direct transmucosal endonasal approach to that of the transseptal approach in patients undergoing pituitary surgery.
Methods: Forty-one consecutive patients undergoing pituitary surgery from January 1996 to March 1999 were included in this study. The first 21 patients underwent the standard transseptal operation through either a sublabial or columellar incision. The latter 20 patients were operated on through an endoscopically guided, direct endonasal exposure, without any submucosal dissection of the nasal septum. The operative morbidity, the duration of surgery, and the length of hospitalization for each group were compared.
Results: The sphenoid sinus exposure obtained through the endonasal route was comparable with the transseptal approach and was adequate for resection of most pituitary tumors. Although the morbidity of the two approaches was similar, patients undergoing the endonasal operation had less postoperative facial pain. Furthermore, the endonasal approach significantly decreased the length of the operation (116 minutes vs. 161 minutes, p = 0.002) and the duration of hospitalization (3.6 vs. 5.1 days, p = 0.003) as compared with the transseptal route.
Conclusions: Morbidity of the endonasal approach to the sphenoid sinus is comparable to that of a conventional transseptal approach. By eliminating the submucosal dissection, the endonasal approach reduces postoperative facial discomfort and decreases length of surgery and hospitalization.