Quantitative analysis of the transcondylar approach to the foramen magnum

John E. Wanebo, Michael R. Chicoine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Condylar resection with suboccipital craniotomy increases foramen magnum exposure, but guidelines for when this is necessary are not defined. Cadaveric and computed tomography evaluations were completed to guide decision-making regarding the use and extent of condylar resection. METHODS: Quantitative analysis of foramen magnum surgical exposures was performed on 32 skulls (64 sides) and 6 cadaveric dissections (12 sides). Computed tomographic (CT) scans were performed on cadaveric heads before and after condylar resections. Digitized images of dry skulls and CT images of cadaver heads were quantitatively analyzed. Predissection CT measurements of cadaveric heads guided extent of condylar resections, and resection accuracy was assessed with postdissection CT scans. RESULTS: Skull measurements (means in parentheses) included the foramen magnum area (7.8 cm2), length (3.6 cm), width (3.1 cm), anteroposterior condylar length (2.3 cm), and axial condylar length (2.5 cm). Mean widths of potential surgical exposures for skulls were obtained for A) suboccipital craniotomy (2.3 cm), B) with 25% (2.6 cm), and C) 50% condylar resection (3.0 cm). Mean angles of exposure were as follows: A, 38.4 degrees; B, 49.1 degrees; and C, 54.3 degrees. CT scans of cadaveric heads before and after dissections yielded measurements of exposure equivalent to measurements found on the dry skulls. CONCLUSION: On average, lateral exposure increases by 3 mm (13%) and 7 mm (30%) for 25 and 50% condylar resection, respectively, compared with suboccipital craniotomy alone. Angles of exposure increase by 10.7 degrees (28%) and 15.9 degrees (41%). Measurements of CT images can be used preoperatively to help analyze the need for condylar resection and intraoperatively to guide the extent of condylar resection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)934-943
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 16 2001


  • Foramen magnum
  • Occipital condyle
  • Suboccipitat craniotomy
  • Transcondylar approach


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