BACKGROUND: Understanding the course of the most medially located parasellar cranial nerve, the abducens, becomes critical when performing an expanded endonasal approach.
OBJECTIVE: We report an anatomoclinical study of the abducens nerve and describe relevant surgical nuances to avoid its injury.
METHODS: Ten anatomic specimens were dissected using endoscopes attached to an high-definition camera. A series of anatomic measurements and relationships of the abducens nerve were noted. Illustrative clinical cases are described to translate those findings into practice.
RESULTS: Cisternal, interdural, gulfar, and cavernous segments of the abducens were identified intracranially. The mean distance from the vertebrobasilar junction (VBJ) to the pontomedullary sulcus (PMS) was 4 mm; horizontal distance between both abducens nerves at the PMS was 10 mm, and between both abducens at the interdural segment was 18.5 mm. The upper limit of the lacerum segment of the internal carotid artery was at the same level of the dural entry point of the sixth cranial nerve posteriorly. The sellar floor at the sphenoid sinus marks the level of the gulfar segment in the craniocaudal axis. At the superior orbital fissure, the abducens nerve and V2 were at an average vertical distance of 11.5 mm.
CONCLUSION: Anatomic landmarks to localize the abducens nerve intraoperatively, such as the VBJ for the transclival approach, the lacerum segment of the carotid, and the sellar floor for the medial petrous apex approach, and V2 for Meckel's cave approach, are reliable and complementary to the use of intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring.