Endoscopy in neuro-otologic surgery

Phillip A. Wackym, Wesley A. King, Glenn A. Meyer, Dennis S. Poe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Endoscopy offers several distinct advantages over the operating microscope during neuro-otologic surgery that make it an excellent adjunctive tool to the microscope or independent modality during cranial base surgery. The high magnification gives excellent definition of perforating blood vessels, cranial nerves, and neural structures, which in many cases is superior to that achieved with the microscope. Furthermore, the use of angled or flexible endoscopes allows one to look around corners and behind anatomic structures blocking the view seen via a 0° microscope. Endoscopy also has the theoretical advantage that a less invasive operative procedure is required, which should reduce the operative morbidity. Several notable disadvantages of endoscopy include the problems associated with blood soiling the endoscope, making visualization difficult or impossible, the lack of readily available instrumentation designed specifically for endoscopic neuro-otology, and the poor overview of the operative field. This last point is an important one because the endoscope is placed adjacent to the lesion and does not allow one to look backward to prevent injury to structures next to the shaft of the telescope. Furthermore, the surgeon must be cognizant of potential thermal injury to structures caused by the heat generated by the light source. The present endoscopic technology limits the image that the surgeon sees to two dimensions, which results in certain unique problems when operating in a three-dimensional milieu. Because of this, there is a steep learning curve to acquire endoscopic dexterity and three-dimensional orientation. Finally, bimanual operation requires the use of an articulated endoscope holder or the commitment of the co-surgeon to hold the endoscope. One of the limitations of the operative microscope is that the angle of view is determined by the distance of the lens to the skull, retractor, or obstructing tissue, which is a function of the lens focal length; the longer the focal length, the narrower the viewing angle. During most microsurgical procedures, the focal distance varies between 200 and 400 mm. Using a previous analogy, if one looks through a door’s keyhole at close range, nearly the entire room on the opposite side of the door can be seen, although nothing can be seen when the hole is viewed from a long distance. This is similar to what happens when using the endoscope with focal lengths ranging from 5 to 20 mm: a wider angle of view can be achieved. Based on their, experience the authors believe that endoscopes can be used safely during neuro-otologic surgery. As an adjunct to or substitution for the operative microscope, this modality does improve visualization of bony, neural, and vascular structures while minimizing cerebellar retraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-323
Number of pages27
JournalOtolaryngologic Clinics of North America
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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