The High Cervical Anterolateral Retropharyngeal Approach

  • Nabeel S. Alshafai
  • V. R. N. Gunness
Part of the Acta Neurochirurgica Supplement book series (NEUROCHIRURGICA, volume 125)


The first high cervical anterolateral retropharyngeal (HCALR) approach was reported by Stevenson et al. for a clivus chordoma in 1966. Anterior approaches to the spine have often been developed in response to problems presented by tuberculous spondylitis. This approach is indicated in anterior high cervical spine cases such as tumour resection, abscess drainage, atlantoaxial subluxation; decompression and stabilization. To our knowledge, only 21 papers in the literature have mentioned this approach. Its main advantage over posterior approaches is easy positioning and minimal need for soft tissue dissection. The HCALR approach provides wide exposure (of the anterior upper cervical spine, lower clivus and brainstem region) and feasibility for instrumentation. The limited space in which important neurovascular and visceral structures course and overlap contributes to the complexity of the anatomy. Navigating this intricate anatomy is essential for the safety of this approach and has been a drawback for utilization of the retropharyngeal corridor. This approach is one of the safest and most effective methods available to access the craniocervical junction. The benefits clearly outweigh the risks and complications.


Craniocervical junction Anterior approach Anatomical corridors Minimally invasive 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nabeel S. Alshafai
    • 1
  • V. R. N. Gunness
    • 2
  1. 1.Alshafai Neurosurgical Academy (ANA)TorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Neurosurgery, St Michael’s HospitalUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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