Background Recent advances in minimally invasive surgery have allowed extended transsphenoidal approaches to treat large and complex lesions beyond the sella turcica including basal meningiomas, but the inclusion criteria and limitations of this approach remain unclear. Methods Retrospective review of 19 consecutive patients (5 males and 14 females aged from 43 to 79 years) with tuberculum sellae meningioma with a maximum diameter of less than 30 mm surgically treated between December 2006 and August 2011 by a single surgeon. Operative outcomes and limitation-based indications were investigated. Findings Total removal was achieved in 15 cases including Simpson's grade 1 in 2 cases (78.9%). All tumor remnants were located in the lateral portion of the internal carotid artery (ICA), as indicated by preoperative magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. Additional oblique imaging along the longitudinal axis of the C1-2 portion of the ICA revealed a paradoxical presence of tumor in between both sides of the ICA in some patients, even in the case with lateral extension over the ICA on coronal MR imaging. Total removal could be achieved in these patients, and after the introduction of additional preoperative oblique MR imaging, total removal was achieved in all patients. Visual outcomes of eyes showed improvement in 23, remained steady in 11, and showed deterioration in 4, and 89.5% eyes recovered to a good state. Deterioration was caused by injury of a small vein in one patient and previous disruption of the arachnoidal sheath in the remaining three. One patient suffered cerebrospinal fluid leakage and required re-operation. None of the patients developed endocrinological deficits or required prolonged hormonal supplementation. Conclusions The extended transsphenoidal approach has equivalent potential to transcranial surgery for tuberculum sellae meningiomas with a maximum diameter of less than 30 mm. The tumors with lateral extension over the ICA have fewer chances of total removal. ICA-oriented simulation and surgical planning are important.
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