Rationale: The evolution of neurosurgical techniques indicates the effort to reduce surgery-related traumatization of patients. The reduction of traumatization contributes to better postoperative outcomes. The improvement of diagnostic imaging techniques facilitates not only the precise localization of lesions but also the accurate determination of topographical relations of specific lesions to individual anatomic variations of intracranial structures. This precision of diagnostic imaging should be used to perform individual surgical procedures through so-called keyhole approaches. Keyhole craniotomies are afflicted with a reduction of light intensity in the depth of the operating field, and they provide rather narrow viewing angles. Thus, objects located directly opposite the approach entrance are more visible than those in the shadow of the microscope beam. These two deficiencies of keyhole craniotomies can be compensated for by the intraoperative use of rigid rod lens endoscopes, the shaft of which remains easily controllable through the surgical microscope.
Concept: Endoscope-assisted microsurgery, like all routine microsurgical procedures, is performed with both hands; the endoscope is fixed in its desired position via a mechanical arm to the headholder. Because of their superior optical quality and maneuverability, only rigid lens scopes are used for endoscope-assisted brain microsurgery. There are five ways of observing the endoscopic and microscopic images at the same time: 1) observation of the microscopic image through the oculars of the microscope and observation of the endoscopic image on a video screen placed in front of the surgeon, 2) observation of the microscopic image through the oculars of the microscope and display of the endoscopic image on a head-mounted LCD screen, 3) projection of both microscopic and endoscopic images on one screen in a picture-in-picture mode, 4) projection of both microscopic and endoscopic images into specially designed microscope oculars, and 5) transmission of both microscopic and endoscopic images into a head-mounted LCD screen.
Discussion: With the knowledge of almost all individual anatomic and pathoanatomic details of a specific patient, it is possible to target the individual lesion through a keyhole approach using the particular anatomic windows. As the light intensity and the depiction of important anatomic details are improved by the intraoperative use of lens scopes, endoscope-assisted microsurgery during keyhole approaches may provide maximum efficiency to remove the lesion, maximum safety for the patient, and minimum invasiveness.