Object: The precise preoperative assessment of the complex nerve-vessel relationship at the root exit zone (RExZ) of the facial nerve is important when planning microvascular decompression (MVD) in patients with hemifacial spasms. The authors have developed an imaging technique-the fusion of 3D magnetic resonance (MR) cistemography and coregistered 3D MR angiography images-that allows clear visualization of the spatial relationship between the vessels and the rootlet of the facial nerve at the brainstem.
Methods: The authors reconstructed 3D MR cisternograms and 3D MR angiograms by using a perspective volume-rendering algorithm that they applied to the volumetric data sets of the following modalities: MR cisternography (a T,-weighted 3D fast spin echo sequence) and coregistered MR angiography (a 3D time-of-flight sequence). The complex anatomical relationship between the offending vessels and the facial nerve RExZ was inspected preoperatively by examining the fusion images from various perspectives within the cerebellopontine angle cistern, within the affected facial nerve, and through the simulated surgical route. The reconstructed 3D findings of the nerve-vessel relationship were compared with the intraoperative findings. Postoperatively, the fused 3D MR imaging technique was used to confirm that microsurgical dissection and the interposed prosthesis had succeeded in maintaining the causative vessels in a position away from the RExZ.
Conclusions: The fusion of 3D MR cisternograms and 3D MR angiograms may prove useful in the pre- and postoperative assessment of MVD in patients with hemifacial spasm.