BACKGROUND: The transcavernous approach adds a significant exposure advantage in basilar aneurysm surgery. However, one of its frequently reported side effects is postoperative oculomotor nerve palsy.
OBJECTIVE: To present the technique of mobilizing the oculomotor nerve throughout its intracranial course and to analyze its consequences on the nerve tension and clinical outcome.
METHODS: The oculomotor nerve is mobilized from its mesencephalic origin to the superior orbital fissure. Its degree of mobility, related to the imposed pulling force, was measured in 11 cadaveric nerves. Tension was mathematically deduced and compared before and after mobilizing of the cavernous segment. One hundred four patients treated for basilar aneurysms with the orbitozygomatic pretemporal transcavernous approach were followed up for a 1-year period and evaluated for postoperative oculomotor nerve palsy.
RESULTS: Releasing the transcavernous segment compared to cisternal mobilization alone resulted in a significant increase in freedom of mobility from 4 to 7.9 mm (P < .001) and in a significant decrease in tension from 0.8 to 0.5 N (P = .006). Ninety-nine percent of aneurysms treated with this technique were amenable to neck clipping, and a total of 84% of patients had a good postoperative outcome (modified Rankin Scale score, 0-2). All patients showed direct postoperative palsy; however, 97% had a complete recovery by 9 months. Only 3 patients had a persistent diplopia on medial gaze, which was corrected with prism glasses.
CONCLUSION: Mobilization of the transcavernous oculomotor nerve results in better maneuverability and less tension on the nerve, which lead to successful surgical treatment and favorable oculomotor outcome.