Microsurgical anatomy of the transcondylar, supracondylar, and paracondylar extensions of the far-lateral approach

J Neurosurg. 1997 Oct;87(4):555-85. doi: 10.3171/jns.1997.87.4.0555.


Despite a large number of reports of the use of the far-lateral approach, some of the basic detail that is important in safely completing this exposure has not been defined or remains poorly understood. The basic far-lateral exposure provides access for the following approaches: 1) the transcondylar approach directed through the occipital condyle or the adjoining portions of the occipital and atlantal condyles; 2) the supracondylar approach directed through the area above the occipital condyle; and 3) the paracondylar exposure directed through the area lateral to the occipital condyle. The transcondylar approach provides access to the lower clivus and premedullary area. The supracondylar approach provides access to the region of, and medial to, the hypoglossal canal and jugular tubercle. The paracondylar approach, which includes drilling of the jugular process of the occipital bone in the area lateral to the occipital condyle, provides access to the posterior portion of the jugular foramen and to the mastoid on the lateral side of the jugular foramen. In this study, the anatomy important to completing the far-lateral approach and these modifications was examined in 12 cadaveric specimens. In the standard posterior and posterolateral approaches, an understanding of the individual suboccipital muscles is not essential. However, these muscles provide important landmarks for the far-lateral approach and its modifications. Other important considerations include the relationship of the occipital condyle to the foramen magnum, hypoglossal canal, jugular tubercle, the jugular process of the occipital bone, the mastoid, and the facial canal. These and other relationships important to completing these exposures were examined in this study.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arteries / anatomy & histology
  • Atlanto-Occipital Joint / anatomy & histology
  • Atlanto-Occipital Joint / surgery
  • Cadaver
  • Cerebellum / blood supply
  • Cervical Atlas / anatomy & histology
  • Cervical Atlas / surgery
  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / anatomy & histology
  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / surgery
  • Craniotomy
  • Dissection
  • Facial Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Foramen Magnum / anatomy & histology
  • Foramen Magnum / surgery
  • Humans
  • Hypoglossal Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Jugular Veins / anatomy & histology
  • Mastoid / anatomy & histology
  • Mastoid / surgery
  • Medulla Oblongata / anatomy & histology
  • Medulla Oblongata / surgery
  • Microsurgery
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / surgery
  • Occipital Bone / anatomy & histology
  • Occipital Bone / blood supply
  • Occipital Bone / innervation
  • Occipital Bone / surgery
  • Skull Base / anatomy & histology*
  • Skull Base / blood supply
  • Skull Base / innervation
  • Skull Base / surgery
  • Vertebral Artery / anatomy & histology