The Shape of the Foramen Ovale: A Visualization Aid for Cannulation Procedures

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Abstract

Several neurosurgical procedures, including rhizotomy for the management of trigeminal neuralgia, cannulate the foramen ovale (FO) to access intracranial structures. Cannulation procedures, including those utilizing neuronavigational technology, are occasionally complicated by anatomical variation of the FO, sometimes resulting in miscannulation and subsequent adverse events. The FO, while commonly thought of as oval-shaped, has also been described as “almond,” “banana,” “D shape,” “pear,” and “triangular.” Because of the importance of the FO in neurosurgical procedures and the misunderstanding of FO shape, the aim of this study is to objectively describe the shape of the FO and its most likely shape variation. A total of 211 FO were evaluated by geometric morphometric analysis. A consensus shape is presented for the FO. No significant difference was found between the shapes of left- and right-sided FO. The most likely shape variation of the FO occurs as an inverse relationship between the anteromedial-posterolateral and anterolateral-posteromedial aspects of the foramen. The capacity to visualize the average FO shape and understand the most likely shape variance, as illustrated by this report, will aid neurosurgeons in their approach to procedures requiring cannulation of the FO.

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