Endoscopic far-lateral approach to the posterolateral craniovertebral junction: An anatomical study

Fuminari Komatsu*, Mika Komatsu, Antonio Di Ieva, Manfred Tschabitscher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Minimally invasive surgery to the posterolateral craniovertebral junction (CVJ) has not been sufficiently described. The aims of this study were to evaluate the feasibility of an endoscopic far-lateral approach to the posterolateral craniocervical junction and to better understand the related anatomy under distorted endoscopic view. Ten fresh cadavers were studied with 4-mm 0 and 30 endoscopes to develop the surgical approach and to identify surgical landmarks. After making a 3-cm straight incision behind the mastoid process, the superior oblique and rectus capitis posterior major muscles were partially exposed. An endoscope was then introduced and the two muscles were followed inferiorly until the posterior arch of the atlas appeared. The two muscles were removed to create ample working space without violating the posterior atlanto-occipital membrane. The vertebral artery was identified by the landmark of the posterior arch of the atlas, and the atlanto-occipital joint and foramen magnum were exposed. In addition to suboccipital craniectomy, transcondylar, supracondylar, and paracondylar extension by drilling were applicable through the narrow corridor under superb visualization. The intradural neurovascular structures from the acousticofacial bundle to the dorsal root of C2, anterolateral space of the foramen magnum, cerebellomedullary fissure, and fourth ventricle were clearly demonstrated. This endoscopic far-lateral approach offers excellent exposure of surgical landmarks around the posterolateral CVJ with minimal invasiveness. Endoscopic soft tissue dissection is key to creating the surgical corridor. This approach could offer an alternative to the conventional far-lateral approach in selected cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-247
Number of pages9
JournalNeurosurgical Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Craniovertebral junction
  • Endoscopy
  • Foramen magnum
  • Jugular foramen
  • Skull base
  • Vertebral artery


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