Object: Surgery of brainstem lesions is increasingly performed despite the fact that surgical indications and techniques continue to be debated. The deep pons, in particular, continues to be a critical area in which the specific risks related to different surgical strategies continue to be examined. With the intention of bringing new knowledge into this important arena, the authors systematically examined the results of brainstem surgeries that have been performed through the lateral infratrigeminal transpontine window.
Methods: Between 1990 and 2013, 29 consecutive patients underwent surgery through this window for either biopsy sampling or for removal of a deep pontine lesion. All of this work was performed at the Department of Neurosurgery of the Istituto Nazionale Neurologico "Carlo Besta", in Milan, Italy. A retrospective analysis of the findings was conducted with the intention of bringing further clarity to this important surgical strategy.
Results: The lateral infratrigeminal transpontine window was exposed through 4 different approaches: 1) classic retrosigmoid (15 cases), 2) minimally invasive keyhole retrosigmoid (10 cases), 3) translabyrinthine (1 case), and 4) combined petrosal (3 cases). No deaths occurred during the entire clinical study. The surgical complications that were observed included hydrocephalus (2 cases) and CSF leakage (1 case). In 6 (20.7%) of 29 patients the authors encountered new neurological deficits during the immediate postoperative period. All 6 of these patients had undergone lesion removal. In only 2 of these 6 patients were permanent sequelae observed at 3 months follow-up. These findings show that 93% of the patients studied did not report any permanent worsening of their neurological condition after this surgical intervention.
Conclusions: This retrospective study supports the idea that the lateral infratrigeminal transpontine window is both a low-risk and safe corridor for either biopsy sampling or for removal of deep pontine lesions.
Keywords: CMAP = compound muscle action potential; CN = cranial nerve; DTI = diffusion tensor imaging; GTR = gross-total resection; MEP = motor evoked potential; SSEP = somatosensory evoked potential; STR = subtotal resection; brainstem; diagnostic and operative techniques; fiber tractography; lateral approach; mRS = modified Rankin Scale; pons; transpontine approach.