Endonasal Endoscopic and Transoral Approaches to the Craniovertebral Junction and the Clival Region: A Comparative Anatomical Study

World Neurosurg. 2019 Dec:132:e116-e123. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2019.08.243. Epub 2019 Sep 10.


Objective: Anterior craniovertebral junction (CVJ) surgery has continued to be one of the most debated neurosurgical topics. The transoral approach (TOA) has been considered the choice for this region. However, it has some limitations and a not negligible degree of surgery-related morbidity. With the advent of endoscopy, the endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA) was developed, which minimized morbidity and improved exposure. To the best of our knowledge, despite the extensive reported data, a comparative anatomical study has not been performed and no definitive consensus has been reached on the indications for both approaches.

Methods: We compared the TOA and EEA to the CVJ using the previously described operability score (OS), calculated at 4 different targets: the C1 tubercle (C1), the lowest exposed point of the odontoid process (C2), the basion (BS) and the middle clivus (MC). The higher the OS for the selected targets, the more favorable the approach.

Results: The TOA had higher OSs at the MC, C1, and C2 targets, and the EEA showed greater OSs at MC and C1. The TOA and EEA had similar OSs at the BS. These results have shown that the OS is more favorable at C1-C2 using the TOA and the OSs at the MC and BS were similar.

Conclusions: The OS is an effective method to compare surgical approaches. The present study demonstrated the maximal exposure capability of the 2 approaches. The TOA seemed to be superior for lower targets and the EEA for upper targets. Because of the strong variability in the CVJ anatomy and pathological features, we suggest considering the OS as a further tool to better define the best surgical approach.

Keywords: Clivus; Craniovertebral junction; Endoscopic endonasal approach; Operability score; Transoral approach.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / anatomy & histology*
  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / surgery*
  • Cadaver
  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / anatomy & histology*
  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / surgery*
  • Endoscopy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mouth / anatomy & histology*
  • Mouth / surgery*
  • Nasal Cavity / anatomy & histology*
  • Nasal Cavity / surgery*
  • Skull Base / anatomy & histology*
  • Skull Base / surgery*
  • Spine / anatomy & histology*
  • Spine / surgery*