Foramen ovale (FO) puncture allows for trigeminal neuralgia treatment, FO electrode placement, and selected biopsy studies. The goals of this study were to demonstrate the anatomical basis of complications related to FO puncture, and provide anatomical landmarks for improvement of safety, selective lesioning of the trigeminal nerve (TN), and optimal placement of electrodes.
METHODS: Both sides of 50 dry skulls were studied to obtain the distances from the FO to relevant cranial base references. A total of 36 sides from 18 formalin-fixed specimens were dissected for Meckel cave and TN measurements. The best radiographic projection for FO visualization was assessed in 40 skulls, and the optimal trajectory angles, insertion depths, and topographies of the lesions were evaluated in 17 specimens. In addition, the differences in postoperative pain relief after the radiofrequency procedure among different branches of the TN were statistically assessed in 49 patients to determine if there was any TN branch less efficiently targeted.
RESULTS: Most severe complications during FO puncture are related to incorrect needle placement intracranially or extracranially. The needle should be inserted 25 mm lateral to the oral commissure, forming an approximately 45° angle with the hard palate in the lateral radiographic view, directed 20° medially in the anteroposterior view. Once the needle reaches the FO, it can be advanced by 20 mm, on average, up to the petrous ridge. If the needle/radiofrequency electrode tip remains more than 18 mm away from the midline, injury to the cavernous carotid artery is minimized. Anatomically there is less potential for complications when the needle/radiofrequency electrode is advanced no more than 2 mm away from the clival line in the lateral view, when the needle pierces the medial part of the FO toward the medial part of the trigeminal impression in the petrous ridge, and no more than 4 mm in the lateral part. The 40°/45° inferior transfacial-20° oblique radiographic projection visualized 96.2% of the FOs in dry skulls, and the remainder were not visualized in any other projection of the radiograph. Patients with V1 involvement experienced postoperative pain more frequently than did patients with V2 or V3 involvement. Anatomical targeting of V1 in specimens was more efficiently achieved by inserting the needle in the medial third of the FO; for V2 targeting, in the middle of the FO; and for V3 targeting, in the lateral third of the FO.
CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge of the extracranial and intracranial anatomical relationships of the FO is essential to understanding and avoiding complications during FO puncture. These data suggest that better radiographic visualization of the FO can improve lesioning accuracy depending on the part of the FO to be punctured. The angles and safety distances obtained may help the neurosurgeon minimize complications during FO puncture and TN lesioning 1).