A computed tomography scan and anatomical cadaveric study of the pterygopalatine ganglion for use in Gamma Knife treatment of cluster headache

Jorge E. Alvernia, Daniel G. Spomar, William C. Olivero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Object. Gamma Knife surgery has recently been used to treat patients with cluster headaches. Both the trigeminal nerve root and the pterygopalatine ganglion (PPG) have been targeted. However, there are no clear-cut anatomical landmarks on computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance images that accurately identify the PPG. Therefore, the authors performed microsurgical dissections on latex-injected cadaver heads to expose the PPG and correlated the findings with thin-slice axial CT scans obtained in the same heads to determine how best to target the PPG. Methods. Three cadaver heads (five sides) previously injected with colored latex were dissected using skull base approaches and microsurgical techniques to identify the PPG and surrounding structures. Measurements were then made to different osseous anatomical landmarks such as the foramen rotundum, vidian canal, and so on. The PPG was marked with a radiopaque marker and thin-slice CT scans were obtained in the cadaver heads to develop some correlates that could be used to identify where the PPG is located on CT scans. Results. The PPG was clearly identified in all specimens and had a mean diameter of 3.58 ± 0.6 mm. The PPG was always located in the same plane (lateral and vertical) as the vidian canal and was located on average 2.7 ≡ 0.3 mm from the end of the canal. The vidian canal was clearly identified on coronal CT scans and had a diameter of 3.05 mm. Conclusions. There was a clear and constant relationship between the PPG and vidian canal. The vidian canal is easily identified on coronal CT scans and can be used as a landmark to target the PPG with the Gamma Knife.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)805-808
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2007



  • Anatomical study
  • Cluster headache
  • Gamma Knife
  • Pterygopalatine ganglion
  • Radiosurgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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