Endoscopic endonasal transclival transodontoid approach for ventral decompression of the craniovertebral junction: operative technique and nuances

Neurosurg Focus. 2015 Apr;38(4):E17. doi: 10.3171/2015.1.FOCUS14813.


The transoral approach is considered the gold-standard surgical route for performing anterior odontoidectomy and ventral decompression of the craniovertebral junction for pathological conditions that result in symptomatic cervicomedullary compression, including basilar invagination, rheumatoid pannus, platybasia with retroflexed odontoid processes, and neoplasms. Extended modifications to increase the operative corridor and exposure include the transmaxillary, extended "open-door" maxillotomy, transpalatal, and transmandibular approaches. With the advent of extended endoscopic endonasal skull base techniques, there has been increased interest in the last decade in the endoscopic endonasal transclival transodontoid approach to the craniovertebral junction. The endonasal route represents an attractive minimally invasive surgical alternative, especially in cases of irreducible basilar invagination in which the pathology is situated well above the palatine line. Angled endoscopes and instrumentation can also be used for lower-lying pathology. By avoiding the oral cavity and subsequently using a transoral retractor, the endonasal route has the advantages of avoiding complications related to tongue swelling, tracheal swelling, prolonged intubation, velopharyngeal insufficiency, dysphagia, and dysphonia. Postoperative recovery is quicker, and hospital stays are shorter. In this report, the authors describe and illustrate their method of purely endoscopic endonasal transclival odonotoidectomy for anterior decompression of the craniovertebral junction and describe various operative pearls and nuances of the technique for avoiding complications.

Keywords: CSF = cerebrospinal fluid; PNSF = pedicled nasoseptal flap; basilar invagination; craniovertebral junction; endoscopic endonasal transclival transodontoid approach; endoscopic skull base surgery; transnasal odontoidectomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / surgery*
  • Decompression, Surgical / adverse effects*
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods*
  • Endoscopy*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nose / surgery*
  • Odontoid Process / surgery*
  • Skull Base / surgery
  • Tomography Scanners, X-Ray Computed