The craniovertebral junction (CVJ) has unique anatomical bone and neurovascular structure architecture. It not only separates the skull base from the subaxial cervical spine but also provides a special cranial flexion, extension and axial rotation pattern. Stability is provided by a complex combination of osseous and ligamentous supports, which allow a large degree of motion. Perfect knowledge of CVJ anatomy and physiology allows us to better understand instrumentation procedures of the occiput, atlas and axis, and the specific diseases that affect the region. Therefore, a review of the vascular, ligamentous and bony anatomy of the region, in relation to all possible surgical approaches to this anatomically unique segment of the cervical spine, appears to be absolutely mandatory in order to preview and to overcome possible anatomy-related complications of CVJ surgery; moreover, knowledge of the basic principles of instrumentation and of the kinematics of the region, since they interact with the anatomy, seems to be strategic in preoperative planning.
Historically considered a no man’s land, CVJ surgery, or the CVJ specialty, has recently attracted strong consideration as a symbol of challenging surgery as well as selective top-level qualifying surgery.
Although many years have passed since the beginning of this pioneering surgery, managing lesions situated in the anterior aspect of the CVJ still remains a challenging neurosurgical problem. Many studies are available in the literature, aiming to examine the microsurgical anatomy of both the anterior and posterior extradural and intradural aspects of the CVJ, as well as the differences in all possible surgical exposures obtained by the 360° approach philosophy. In this paper the author provides a short but quite complete at-a-glance tour of personal experience and publications and the more recent literature available.
Instrumentation and fusion Endoscopy Transnasal approach Transoral approach Extreme lateral approach Far lateral approach Craniovertebral junction
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