Background: The results of the surgical resection of 9 clival tumors using the enlarged transcochlear approach (ETCA) are evaluated. The literature is reviewed to compare the ETCA with other approaches to the clival and petroclival region; the surgical indications are discussed.
Methods: Between June 1996 and June 1997, 9 patients were operated on through the ETCA either alone or combined with other approaches. Only meningiomas and chordomas with a significant involvement of the clivus and huge extension into the posterior fossa were included into this study.
Results: Gross total tumor removal was achieved in 5 cases and in 4 cases a residual meningioma was left in place inside the cavernous sinus and treated by radiosurgery. No postoperative mortality or major neurological morbidity were recorded. The postoperative facial nerve function was good in 75% of cases. No tumor recurrence was recorded (mean follow-up = 45.9 months).
Conclusions: The indications to the ETCA should be as strict as possible. The ETCA is an effective procedure in the treatment of large clivopetrous tumors. Tumor characteristics like consistency, vascularity, encasements of vertebro-basilar vessels, bone erosion and previous surgery are also indicative. The transient postoperative facial nerve palsy and deafness should be considered as major disadvantages related to this approach.