The limits of endoscopic endonasal approaches in young children: a review

Andrew Kobets, Adam Ammar, Kamilah Dowling, Alan Cohen, James Tait Goodrich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: The endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA) provides visualization of four deep surgical corridors (transcribiform, transtubercular, transsellar, and transclival) with superior illumination and specialized deep-reaching instruments, as compared to microscopic techniques. Several studies have evaluated EEAs in children but do not stratify for the very young of age, whose particularly small nares and developmental anatomy may limit endonasal instrumentation. Methodology: A comprehensive review of EEAs in infants and children to age 4 was performed to determine the limitations in this age group. Results: Eighteen studies were identified describing this approach for pediatric patients and the surgical caveats and limitations were reviewed. In very small children, CSF leaks, meningioencephaloceles, tumors of the anterior skull base, and lesions at the rostral cervical spine have been successfully treated endonasally. While newer studies advocate using 2.7-mm diameter (18-cm length) lenses, 4-mm diameter rigid lenses have been used without technical difficulty. The youngest patient in whom an EEA was used was a 6-week-old for a dermoid resection. Some have advocated that due to the small nares, approaches via bilateral entry are optimal for multiple instruments, however, others, including authors of a series of 28 repaired CSF leaks demonstrate successful single nare access. Discussion: EEAs are associated with less blood loss, are less likely to hinder normal growth of the skull and midface, and allow for the resection of even malignant lesions. Despite the limitations of the frontal, ethmoid, and sphenoid sinuses before age 3, reports have not documented insurmountable difficulty with EEAs even in infants. 2.7-mm diameter endoscopes are favored unilaterally or bilaterally to treat both benign and malignant lesions and preserve the young patient’s facial anatomy better than older methods. Ever improving technology has facilitated the use of this approach in patients it would otherwise be infeasible for in the past, but it still cannot overcome the anatomical constraints of certain young patients in which this approach remains unindicated. Patient selection is therefore of utmost importance and the risks and benefits of more extensive approaches in these cases must be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-271
Number of pages9
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Endonasal
  • Endoscopic
  • Pediatric
  • Skull base
  • Transsphenoidal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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