OBJECTIVE: The anterior transpetrosal approach (ATPA) was initially reported in 1985. The authors' institution has 274 case records of surgery performed with the ATPA during the period from 1984 to 2017. Although many technical advances and modifications in the ATPA have occurred over those 33 years, to the authors' knowledge no articles to date have reported a detailed analysis of variations and complications of the ATPA. In this study, the authors analyzed their patient series to elucidate improvements over time in ATPA methodology while highlighting unresolved problems and evaluating how to avoid surgical complications. METHODS: All surgical cases (274 patients) using the ATPA at the authors' institution during the period from 1984 to 2017 were analyzed retrospectively using charts, clinical summaries, operative records, and operative videos. Obtained parameters were patient age and sex, diagnosis, size of tumors, location of disease, operative date, neurological symptoms before and after surgery, radiographically identified brain injury, and other surgical complications. The most common diagnosis was petroclival meningioma (n = 158), followed by trigeminal schwannoma (n = 32), chordoma (n = 25), epidermoid tumor (n = 21), other tumor (n = 27), aneurysm (n = 6), and other (n = 5). RESULTS: The original ATPA was performed in 239 cases. In an additional 35 cases, a modified ATPA was performed. Zygomatic osteotomy with ATPA was a common modification that was used in 19 of the 35 cases to decrease retraction damage to the temporal lobe for high-positioned tumors. Brain injury by temporal lobe retraction without venous hemorrhage still occurred in 8 of the 19 cases (3.1%) with surgical death in 1 of these cases (0.4%) of reoperation with sacrifice of the petrosal vein. Symptomatic CSF leak was the most frequent complication noted and was observed in 35 cases (13.5%). In most of these cases the patients were cured by observation or lumbar drain, but in 6 cases (17.1%) reoperation was needed. Facial nerve damage related to surgical approach decreased from 6.2% to 3.5% after 2010; however, the incidence of CSF leaks (13.5%) has not improved. CONCLUSIONS: There have been several modifications and advancements made in the ATPA to increase tumor removal and decrease surgical complications. However, complications related to surgical approach occurred, such as venous occlusion-related brain injury and facial nerve damage at pyramid resection. CSF leak remained an unsolved problem related to the ATPA procedures. Preoperative assessment of venous variation of the middle fossa, pneumatization of the temporal bone, and intraoperative monitoring of cranial nerves are important procedures to decrease these complications.
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