Purpose of review: The combined petrosal approach to the lateral skull base merges a retrolabyrinthine-presigmoid posterior fossa craniotomy with an adjacent middle fossa craniotomy, which are rendered continuous by division of the tentorium. This is a hearing-preserving approach that affords wide access to the lateral aspect of the clivus, the prepontine space, and the cerebellopontine angle.
Recent findings: This article details the historical development of the combined petrosal approach alongside a description. In particular, the critically relevant anatomy is reviewed, including the course of the vein of Labbé, with a view toward avoiding the known complications associated with this approach. Outcomes for application of this approach as applied for various lesions are also reviewed as portrayed by the current literature.
Summary: The combined petrosal approach affords wide access to the lateral skull base in the middle and posterior fossa. The approach and the lesions addressed by this approach involve delicate and sensitive anatomy. We review the evolution of this approach and highlight advancements that have allowed the combined petrosal approach to be a safe addition to the surgeon's armamentarium.