The role of 3D tractography in skull base surgery: Technological advances, feasibility, and early clinical assessment with anterior skull base meningiomas


Department of Neurosurgery, Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute, Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center


Objective: The aim of this study is to determine feasibility of incorporating three-dimensional (3D) tractography into routine skull base surgery planning and analyze our early clinical experience in a subset of anterior cranial base meningiomas (ACM).

Methods: Ninety-nine skull base endonasal and transcranial procedures were planned in 94 patients and retrospectively reviewed with a further analysis of the ACM subset.

Main Outcome Measures: (1) Automated generation of 3D tractography; (2) co-registration 3D tractography with computed tomography (CT), CT angiography (CTA), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); and (3) demonstration of real-time manipulation of 3D tractography intraoperatively. ACM subset: (1) pre- and postoperative cranial nerve function, (2) qualitative assessment of white matter tract preservation, and (3) frontal lobe fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) signal abnormality.

Results: Automated 3D tractography, with MRI, CT, and CTA overlay, was produced in all cases and was available intraoperatively. ACM subset : 8 (44%) procedures were performed via a ventral endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA) corridor and 12 (56%) via a dorsal anteromedial (DAM) transcranial corridor. Four cases (olfactory groove meningiomas) were managed with a combined, staged approach using ventral EEA and dorsal transcranial corridors. Average tumor volume reduction was 90.3 ± 15.0. Average FLAIR signal change was -30.9% ± 58.6. 11/12 (92%) patients (DAM subgroup) demonstrated preservation of, or improvement in, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus volume. Functional cranial nerve recovery was 89% (all cases).

Conclusion: It is feasible to incorporate 3D tractography into the skull base surgical armamentarium. The utility of this tool in improving outcomes will require further study.

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