The 1-piece transbasal approach: operative technique and anatomical study

J Neurosurg. 2014 Dec;121(6):1446-52. doi: 10.3171/2014.8.JNS132609. Epub 2014 Sep 26.


Object: The transbasal approach (TBA) is an anterior skull base approach, which provides access to the anterior skull base, sellar-suprasellar region, and clivus. The TBA typically involves a bifrontal craniotomy with orbital bar and/or nasal bone osteotomies performed in 2 separate steps. The authors explored the feasibility of routinely performing this approach in 1 piece with a quantitative cadaveric anatomical study, and present an operative case example of their approach.

Methods: Seven latex-injected cadaveric heads underwent a 1-piece TBA, followed by additional bone removal typical for a traditional 2-piece approach. Six surgical angles relative to the pituitary stalk, as well as the surface area of the orbital roof osteotomy, were measured before and after additional bone removal. The vertical angle from the frontonasal suture to the foramen cecum was measured in all specimens. In addition to an anatomical study, the authors have used this technique in the operating room, and present an illustrative case of resection of an anterior skull base meningioma.

Results: Morphometric results were as follows: the vertical angle from the frontonasal suture to the foramen cecum ranged from 17.4° to 29.7° (mean 23.8° ± 4.8°) superiorly. Of the 6 surgical angle measures, only the middle horizontal angle was increased in the 2-piece versus the 1-piece approach (mean 43.4° ± 4.6° vs 43.0° ± 4.3°, respectively; p = 0.049), with a mean increase of 0.4°. The surface area of the orbital osteotomy was increased in the 2-piece versus the 1-piece approach (mean 2467 mm(2) ± 360 mm(2) vs 2045 mm(2) ± 352 mm(2), respectively; p < 0.001). The patient in the illustrative clinical case had a good outcome, both clinically and cosmetically.

Conclusions: The 1-piece TBA provides an alternative to the traditional 2-piece approach. It allows easier reconstruction, potentially decreased operative time, and improved cosmesis. While more of the orbital roof can be removed with the 2-piece approach, this additional bone removal offers only a small increase in 1 of 6 surgical angles that were measured.

Keywords: 1 piece; TBA = transbasal approach; anatomy; anterior skull base; cranial base surgery; orbital osteotomy; subfrontal; transbasal approach.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Cranial Fossa, Anterior / anatomy & histology
  • Cranial Fossa, Anterior / surgery
  • Craniotomy / methods*
  • Dissection / methods
  • Female
  • Frontal Sinus / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Sinus / surgery
  • Humans
  • Latex
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Orbit / anatomy & histology
  • Orbit / surgery*
  • Osteotomy / methods*
  • Pituitary Gland / anatomy & histology
  • Pituitary Gland / surgery*
  • Skull Base / anatomy & histology
  • Skull Base / surgery
  • Skull Base Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skull Base Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Zygoma / anatomy & histology
  • Zygoma / surgery*


  • Latex