Modified skin incision for avoiding the lesser occipital nerve and occipital artery during retrosigmoid craniotomy

Tubbs RS, Fries FN, Kulwin C, Mortazavi MM, Loukas M, Cohen-Gadol AA.Modified skin incision for avoiding the lesser occipital nerve and occipital artery during retrosigmoid craniotomy: potential applications for enhancing operative working distance and angles while minimizing the risk of postoperative neuralgias and intraoperative hemorrhage.J Clin Neurosci. 2016 Jul 7. pii: S0967-5868(16)30051-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2016.03.015. 

ABSTRACT

Chronic postoperative neuralgias and headache following retrosigmoid craniotomy can be uncomfortable for the patient. We aimed to better elucidate the regional nerve anatomy in an effort to minimize this postoperative complication. Ten adult cadaveric heads (20 sides) were dissected to observe the relationship between the lesser occipital nerve and a traditional linear versus modified U incision during retrosigmoid craniotomy. Additionally, the relationship between these incisions and the occipital artery were observed. The lesser occipital nerve was found to have two types of course. Type I nerves (60%) remained close to the posterior border of the sternocleidomastoid muscle and some crossed anteriorly over the sternocleidomastoid muscle near the mastoid process. Type II nerves (40%) left the posterior border of the sternocleidomastoid muscle and swung medially (up to 4.5cm posterior to the posterior border of the sternocleidomastoid muscle) as they ascended over the occiput. The lesser occipital nerve was near a midpoint of a line between the external occipital protuberance and mastoid process in all specimens with the type II nerve configuration. Based on our findings, the inverted U incision would be less likely to injure the type II nerves but would necessarily cross over type I nerves, especially more cranially on the nerve at the apex of the incision. As the more traditional linear incision would most likely transect the type I nerves and more so near their trunk, the U incision may be the overall better choice in avoiding neural and occipital artery injury during retrosigmoid approaches.