gms | German Medical Science

ESBS 2005: Skull Base Surgery: An Interdisciplinary Challenge
7. Kongress der Europäischen Schädelbasisgesellschaft & 13. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Schädelbasischirurgie

18. - 21.05.2005, Fulda

The endoscopic endonasal bilateral trans-sphenoidal approach to the sellar region

Meeting Contribution

  • D. Locatelli - Neurosurg. Dpt., I.R.C.C.S. San Matteo, Pavia, Italy
  • I. Acchiardi - Neurosurg. Dpt., I.R.C.C.S. San Matteo, Pavia, Italy
  • F. Rampa - Neurosurg. Dpt., I.R.C.C.S. San Matteo, Pavia, Italy
  • M. Bignami - Otolaryngology Dpt., Varese, Italy
  • P. Palma - Otolaryngology Dpt., Varese, Italy
  • G. Tomei - Neurosurg. Dpt., Osp Circolo, Varese, Italy
  • P. Castelnuovo - Otolaryngology Dpt., Varese, Italy

ESBS 2005: Skull Base Surgery: An Interdisciplinary Challenge. 7th Congress of the European Skull Base Society held in association with the 13th Congress of the German Society of Skull Base Surgery. Fulda, 18.-21.05.2005. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2009. Doc05esbs45

DOI: 10.3205/05esbs45, URN: urn:nbn:de:0183-05esbs459

Veröffentlicht: 27. Januar 2009

© 2009 Locatelli et al.
Dieser Artikel ist ein Open Access-Artikel und steht unter den Creative Commons Lizenzbedingungen ( Er darf vervielfältigt, verbreitet und öffentlich zugänglich gemacht werden, vorausgesetzt dass Autor und Quelle genannt werden.




The transsphenoidal approach, both microsurgical and more recently endoscopic is nowadays widely used as the primary surgical treatment in patients affected by pituitary adenomas [1].

The experience gathered from otolaryngologyendoscopic approaches was followed by the application of the acquisitions of the treatment of the sellar and parasellar pathologies. The first step consisted in the combined use of the endoscopic procedures and traditional microsurgical transsphenoidal approach [2]. In the first ‘90s Jho, Carrau and Sethi practiced a pure endoscopic technique [3], [4], [5], [6]. In the attempt to obtain minimal invasiveness, several variants of the latter approach were proposed in the following years [7].

Since 1997 the endoscopic bilateral (four hands) endonasal approach was routinely performed in our Department, in collaboration with the otolaryngologists, for the treatment of sellar, parasellar and clival pathology.

169 patients affected by sellar or parasellar lesions have been treated in our Department, including pituitary adenomas, craniopharyngiomas, clivus cordomas and other neoplastic pathologies.

The endoscopic surgery offers surgical and endocrinological outcomes similar to those obtained by the traditional microsurgical approaches with a higher respect for the rhinosinusal morphofunctional structures, thus approaching a functional surgery concept [8].

Materials and methods

From 1997 to 2005 at our Neurosurgical Department and, since 2002, also at the Neurosurgical Department of Varese, with a combined otolaryngologists-neurosurgeons equipe, 169 patients were surgically treated for sellar and parasellar lesions by means of an endoscopic endonasal bilateral transsphenoidal or transethmoidal approach.

For determination of suprasellar extension and invasiveness Hardy’s classification modified by Wilson was adopted.Pre-operative evaluation comprehends baseline endocrinological exams including, when necessary, dynamic stimulation or inhibition tests and study of circadian rhythm of hormonal secretions. Neuroradiologic study with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the sellar region before and after administration of Gd-DTPA and coronal CT scans of the facial mass was routinely performed. Finally, ophthalmologic evaluation with visual acuity and visual field assessment was done.

We adopted the four hands bilateral endoscopic technique, choosing the less invasive access possible according to the anatomy and the specific pathology of the patient, proceding trought both nostrils paraseptal or transethmoidal to the sphenoidal sinus, drilling the rostrum and the sellar floor in order to have an easy bilateral access to the sella and to control up to three instruments and the endoscope in the surgical field.

Follow up at 2 and 6 months comprehends endoscopic endonasal outpatient evaluation, basal hormone tests, MRI of the sellar region before and after administration of Gd-DTPA and ophthalmologic exam with visual field and acuity evaluation. From the comparison between pre- and post-operative laboratory and radiological results, we evaluated the radicality of the exeresis, the improvement of the visual field in macroadenomas, remission of hormone hypersecretion in productive adenomas, the arousal of hypopituitarism, minor and major intraoperative and postoperative complications.

Results and discussion

Through the experience obtained in 169 patients (Figure 1 [Fig. 1]) surgically treated with the four hands technique we define the advantages and limits of these procedures. As mentioned above, we used these endoscopic approaches for a variety of lesions [9], [10], [11], [12], [13].

Our series of macroadenomas (117/147), particularly the giant macroadenomas, seems to be of particular interest for the complexity of surgical treatment, the paucity of the international literature on this argument and for the lack of global “consensus” in the management of such lesions.

According to the classification commonly accepted, macroadenomas exceed 10 mm of diameter. We applied the term of “giant” for tumor size beyond 4 cm. This group contains both those tumors with suprasellar and intrasphenoidal extension but preserved dural integrity, as well as those penetrating its double layer in any direction. Considering the erosion of the sella turcica and the superior or lateral extension, adenomas are classified, according to Hardy, in four grades. The giant macroadenomas of our series are of grade III or IV (C, D, E). Pituitary adenomas require a multidisciplinary approach with the involvement of the endocrinologist, the neurologist, the radiologist, the gynecologist, the ophthalmologist and the neurosurgeon [14].

We used the four hands technique in all our series [15], [16] it was useful in all pituitary adenomas, from microadenomas to giant sized, to optimize the advantages of the endonasal endoscopic technique. In our opinion the monolateral approach and the use of the endoscopic holder both could limit the endoscopic technique itself.

In particular we always obtained an easier approach with minimal distortion of the nasal structures, a better view of the surgical field with optimal exposure of the lesion and wider movements and handling of the surgical instruments, using up to three different tools and one endoscope, thus having two surgeon working at the same target at the same time.

The advantages are that we obtained a better control of the intraoperative bleedings with the possibility to use the endoscope alternatively through one or the other nostril; we also improved the accessibility of different tools such as intraoperative Doppler, neuronavigation probes or laser as well as to microsurgical instruments needed to reach distal or lateral located lesions. As well by this bilateral approach we can use our ‘dive‘ technique to explore the intra and suprasellar compartment. Moreover the sellar repair, when needed, can be easily accomplished by a bilateral approach, so different closure techniques by autologous grafts and, more recently, by the combination of eterologous material such as collagen, collagen and fibrin glue, dural substitute and autologous bone can be applied [17], [18].

It is known that endonasal endoscopic surgery offers optimal results in the management of microadenomas and could be considered an alternative to the medical therapy. On the other hand, it is debated the role of endoscopic surgery for suprasellar and parasellar lesions of different nature. The endoscopic approach applies the concept of minimal invasiveness allowing, with the four hands technique, a wider vision of the surgical field. Futhermore, the constant evolution of new surgical approaches and their refinement and innovation in surgical instrumentation renders possible the continuous improvement of the final outcome.

It is to stress that optimal results necessitate of sufficient skillfulness by the surgeon and obvious knowledge of the anatomy of the sellar region. Futhermore, a necessary learning curve has to be realized in order to acquire different and new “hand-eye” coordination. In this process it has been fundamental the collaboration with the otolaryngologits to add mutual experience to reach good results. The neurosurgeon’s knowledge of the sellar region has to be completed with the capacity of the rhinologic surgeon to respect and preserve the morphofunctional structures of the nose. To obtain best results, a careful selection of either of the two mentioned routes should be operated, in accordance with the indications for the transethmoidal approach we mentioned above.

Our ten years experience of the endoscopic transphenoidal approaches guarantes our incidence of major complications similar to that reported for best microsurgical techniques and lower rate of minor complications that can determine poorer quality of life for patients. This is the direct consequence of the extreme respect of the anatomy and physiology of the nasal cavities leading to minor discomfort in the post-operative period and higher quality of life at the long follow up period.


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