The Role of 3D tractography in Skull Base Surgery: Technological Advances, Feasibility, and Early Clinical Assessment with Anterior Skull Base Meningiomas

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Thieme Publishing

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Skull Base

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Objective The aim of this study is to determine feasibility of incorporating three-dimensional (3D) tractography into routine skull base surgery planning and analyze our early clinical experience in a subset of anterior cranial base meningiomas (ACM).

Methods Ninety-nine skull base endonasal and transcranial procedures were planned in 94 patients and retrospectively reviewed with a further analysis of the ACM subset.

Main Outcome Measures (1) Automated generation of 3D tractography; (2) co-registration 3D tractography with computed tomography (CT), CT angiography (CTA), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); and (3) demonstration of real-time manipulation of 3D tractography intraoperatively. ACM subset: (1) pre- and postoperative cranial nerve function, (2) qualitative assessment of white matter tract preservation, and (3) frontal lobe fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) signal abnormality.

Results Automated 3D tractography, with MRI, CT, and CTA overlay, was produced in all cases and was available intraoperatively. ACM subset: 8 (44%) procedures were performed via a ventral endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA) corridor and 12 (56%) via a dorsal anteromedial (DAM) transcranial corridor. Four cases (olfactory groove meningiomas) were managed with a combined, staged approach using ventral EEA and dorsal transcranial corridors. Average tumor volume reduction was 90.3 ± 15.0. Average FLAIR signal change was –30.9% ± 58.6. 11/12 (92%) patients (DAM subgroup) demonstrated preservation of, or improvement in, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus volume. Functional cranial nerve recovery was 89% (all cases).

Conclusion It is feasible to incorporate 3D tractography into the skull base surgical armamentarium. The utility of this tool in improving outcomes will require further study.


Skull Base, Vol. 82, No. 5 (August 2020): 576-592. DOI.

Maharaj Singh was affiliated with Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the time of publication.