BACKGROUND: Although rare, recalcitrant cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak after skull base tumor resection or major head trauma is a difficult therapeutic challenge, often complicated by lack of local vascularized tissue in a scarred, radiated field. Craniotomy with a free tissue transfer has been described for CSF leak repair from these complicated skull base defects.
OBJECTIVE: We present our experience with a novel extracranial approach to manage refractory CSF leaks with a radial forearm free flap set in through a transantral and ethmoid sinus approach.
METHODS: Five patients with recalcitrant CSF leaks in the anterior skull base underwent radial forearm free tissue transfer via a hybrid transantral-endoscopic approach.
RESULTS: There were 4 female patients and 1 male patient. Average age was 58 years (range, 30-72 years). Four patients had previous neurosurgical anterior skull base tumor resections, and 1 patient had significant head trauma leading to a recalcitrant CSF leak. All 5 patients had undergone multiple prior endoscopic and/or open repairs. All 5 patients had successful resolution of their leak after undergoing radial forearm free tissue transfer. Two of 5 patients required a second minor endoscopic procedure. No patients required a craniotomy.
CONCLUSION: An extracranial transantral-endoscopic approach for the inset of radial forearm free flap is a safe treatment technique that precludes the need for a craniotomy and promotes effective repair of CSF leaks refractory to traditional endoscopic procedures.
ABBREVIATION: RFFF, radial forearm free flap