Outcomes of the Suture "Pull-Through" Technique for Repair of Lateral Skull Base CSF Fistula and Encephaloceles

Otol Neurotol. 2017 Mar;38(3):416-422. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000001321.


Objective: Describe the safety profile and surgical outcomes of a combined transmastoid-middle cranial fossa suture "pull-through" technique for repair of lateral skull base defects.

Study design: Retrospective.

Setting: Tertiary care hospital.

Patients: Patients undergoing surgery for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) fistula and/or encephalocele.

Intervention: Combined transmastoid and middle fossa approach using suture pull-through technique.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measures of interest were recurrence of CSF fistula or encephalocele, and postoperative air-bone gap.

Results: Twenty-six patients were included; mean age at surgery was 60 ± 14 years and 65% of patients were female. The majority of defects involved both the tegmen mastoideum and tympani (69%); multiple defects were present in 11 patients. Small craniotomy (2 × 3 cm) was performed and defects were repaired using composite grafts constructed with fascia, bone, and/or cartilage, and dural substitute affixed with suture. The suture tail was left long and passed from the middle fossa through the defect into the mastoid. At average follow-up of 8.3 months, no patients of recurrent CSF leak were noted. Significant improvements in both mean pure-tone average and air-bone gap were noted for the entire cohort (p = 0.04 and p = 0.02, respectively).

Conclusion: A combined transmastoid-middle cranial fossa for the repair of lateral skull base CSF fistula and encephaloceles using the suture "pull-through" technique is efficacious and the complication profile is favorable. This method facilitates reliable placement of a composite graft in the center of lateral skull base defects through a small craniotomy that minimizes temporal lobe retraction.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak / surgery
  • Craniotomy / methods*
  • Encephalocele / surgery*
  • Female
  • Fistula / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull Base / surgery*
  • Sutures