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The Aborted Early History of the Translabyrinthine Approach: A Victim of Suppression or Technical Prematurity?

Nguyen-Huynh, Anh T.*; Jackler, Robert K.*; Pfister, Markus; Tseng, Jeff

doi: 10.1097/MAO.0b013e31802b3264
History of Otology

Objective: To ascertain the reasons translabyrinthine (TL) approach to acoustic neuroma, initially attempted in 1911, became relegated to obscurity for nearly half a century.

Study Design: A scholarly review of more than 40 publications in German and English from the late 19th to the mid-20th century.

Literature Summary: Surgeons who first contemplated approaching the cerebellopontine angle recognized that the shortest route from the surface was through the petrous bone. In the late 19th century, otologic surgeons devised numerous procedures to deal with infection in and around the semicircular canals. This familiarity led R. Panse of Dresden to propose (but not actually perform) a TL approach (1904). F.H. Quix of Utrecht performed the first pure TL approach (1911), but others before him had used petrosectomy to augment the suboccipital approach. Subsequent TL attempts by other surgeons met with variable results. Devastating criticism of the method was proffered by leading acoustic neuroma surgeons of the day such as H. Cushing (1921) and W. Dandy (1925). The most important criticisms were that the approach provided only a deep and narrow field of action, was surrounded by major vascular structures, and led to great difficulty with cerebrospinal fluid leakage.

Historical Perspective: The literature on this subject is replete with erroneous citations. Panse is often miscited as having performed the first surgery. It has also become traditional to give Quix great credit, even though his procedure failed to remove much of the tumor. Poor outcome and intense criticism led surgeons to abandon the TL approach until W.F. House, armed with operating microscope and high-speed drill, successfully resurrected it in the 1960s. He concisely summarizes the pioneers' efforts: "They had the ideas and desire, but not the technical tools."

*Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, U.S.A.; †Hals-Hasen-Ohrenklinik, University Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany; and‡Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Anh T. Nguyen-Huynh, M.D., Ph.D., Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239; E-mail:

© 2007 Otology & Neurotology, Inc.