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J Neurol Surg Rep. 2015 Jul;76(1):e37-42. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1395492. Epub 2015 Jan 16.

Endoscopic Transnasal Approach for Urgent Decompression of the Craniocervical Junction in Acute Skull Base Osteomyelitis.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, United States.
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, United States.


Ventral epidural abscess with osteomyelitis at the craniocervical junction is a rare occurrence that typically mandates spinal cord decompression via a transoral approach. However, given the potential for morbidity with transoral surgery, especially in the setting of immunosuppression, together with the advent of extended endonasal techniques, the transnasal approach could be attractive for selected patients. We present two cases of ventral epidural abscess and osteomyelitis at the craniocervical junction involving C1/C2 that were successfully treated via the endoscopic transnasal approach. Both were treated in staged procedures involving posterior cervical fusion followed by endoscopic transnasal resection of the ventral C1 arch and odontoid process for decompression of the ventral spinal cord and medulla. Dural repairs were successfully performed using multilayered, onlay techniques where required. Both patients tolerated surgery exceedingly well, had brief postoperative hospital stays, and recovered uneventfully to their neurologic baselines. Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging confirmed complete decompression of the foramen magnum and upper C-spine. These cases illustrate the advantages and low morbidity of the endonasal endoscopic approach to the craniocervical junction in the setting of frank skull base infection and immunosuppression, representing to our knowledge a unique application of this technique to osteomyelitis and epidural abscess at the craniocervical junction.


C1; craniocervical junction osteomyelitis; dens; endoscopic transnasal odontoidectomy; extended endonasal approach; odontoid; skull base; spine infection

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