Cerebellum and Fourth Ventricle
Last Updated: August 23, 2020
The posterior cranial fossa, the largest and deepest of the three cranial fossae, contains the most complex intracranial anatomy. Here, in approximately one-eighth the intracranial space, are found the pathways regulating consciousness, vital autonomic functions, and motor activities and sensory reception for the head, body, and extremities, in addition to the centers for controlling balance and gait. Only 2 of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves are located entirely outside the posterior fossa; the 10 other pairs have a segment within the posterior fossa (22, 25) (Fig. 1.1). The posterior fossa is strategically situated at the outlet of the cerebrospinal fluid flow from the ventricular system. The arterial relationships are especially complex, with the vertebral and basilar arteries having relatively inaccessible segments deep in front of the brainstem and the major cerebellar arteries coursing in relation to multiple sets of cranial nerves before reaching the cerebellum (9, 10, 18, 19).
The posterior fossa extends from the tentorial incisura, through which it communicates with the supratentorial space, to the foramen magnum, through which it communicates with the spinal canal. It is surrounded by the occipital, temporal, parietal, and sphenoid bones (Fig. 1.1). It is bounded in front by the dorsum sellae, the posterior part of the sphenoid body, and the clival part of the occipital bone; behind by the lower portion of the squamosal part of the occipital bone; and on each side by the petrous and mastoid parts of the temporal bone, the lateral part of the occipital bone, and above and behind by a small part of the mastoid angle of the parietal bone. Its intracranial surface is penetrated by the jugular foramen, internal acoustic meatus, hypoglossal canal, the vestibular and cochlear aqueducts, and several venous emissary foramina, all of which will be explored in greater detail. The upper surface of the cerebellum is separated from the supratentorial space by the tentorium cerebelli. Optimizing an operative approach to the posterior fossa requires an under- standing of the relationships of the cerebellum, cranial nerves, brainstem, the cerebellar arteries, veins, and peduncles, and the complex fissures between the cerebellum and brainstem. The relationships of the fourth ventricle to the cerebellar surfaces and the fissures through which the ventricle is approached surgically are among the most complex in the brain.
This section on the cerebellum and fourth ventricle will begin at the cerebellar surfaces and progress to the deeper neural structures.
The cortical surfaces are divided on the basis of the structures they face, or along which they may be exposed, to make this description more readily applicable to the operative set- ting (Fig. 1.2). The first surface, the tentorial surface, faces the tentorium and is retracted in a supracerebellar approach; the second surface, the suboccipital surface, is located below and between the lateral and sigmoid sinuses and is exposed in a suboccipital craniectomy; and the third surface, the petrosal surface, faces forward toward the posterior surface of the petrous bone and is retracted to expose the cerebellopontine angle. Each of the surfaces has the vermis in the midline and the hemispheres laterally and is divided by a major fissure named on the basis of the surface that it divides. The hemispheric lobules forming each of the three surfaces commonly overlap onto and form a part of the adjacent surfaces (22). The fissures dividing the three cortical surfaces are to be distinguished from the fissures between the cerebellum and the brainstem.
The tentorial surface faces and conforms to the lower surface of the tentorium (Figs. 1.2–1.4). The anteromedial part of this surface, the apex, formed by the anterior vermis, is the highest point on the cerebellum. This surface slopes down- ward from its anteromedial to its posterolateral edge. On the tentorial surface, the transition from the vermis to the hemi- spheres is smooth and not marked by the deep fissures on the suboccipital surface between the vermis and hemispheres. Deep notches, the anterior and posterior cerebellar incisurae, groove the anterior and posterior edges of the tentorial sur- face in the midline. The brainstem fits into the anterior cerebellar incisura and the falx cerebelli fits into the posterior incisura (Fig. 1.2).
The anterior border, separating the tentorial and petrosal surfaces, has a lateral part (the anterolateral margin) that is parallel to the superior petrosal sinus and separates the hemispheric part of the tentorial and petrosal surfaces, and a medial part (the anteromedial margin) that faces the midbrain and forms the posterior border of the fissure between the midbrain and cerebellum. The anterior angle formed by the junction of the anterolateral and anteromedial margins is directed anteriorly above the origin of the posterior root of the trigeminal nerve. The posterior border between the tentorial and the suboccipital surfaces also has a lateral and a medial part. The lateral part (the posterolateral margin) is parallel and adjacent to the lateral sinus and separates the hemispheric part of the suboccipital and tentorial surfaces, and the short medial part (the posteromedial margin) faces the poste- rior cerebellar incisura and separates the vermic part of the two surfaces. The lateral angle, formed by the junction of the anterolateral and posterolateral margins, is located at the junction of sigmoid, lateral, and superior petrosal sinuses. Veins often converge on the anterior and lateral angles.
The hemispheric part of the tentorial surface includes the quadrangular, simple, and superior semilunar lobules, and the vermian part includes the culmen, declive, and folium. The vermian and the related hemispheric parts from above to below in sequence are the culmen and the quadrangular lobule, the declive and the simple lobule, and the folium and the superior semilunar lobule. The tentorial surface is divided at the site of its major fissure, the tentorial fissure, into anterior and posterior parts. This fissure, located between the quadrangular and the simple lobules on the hemisphere and the culmen and the declive on the vermis, has also been called the primary fissure. The postclival fissure separates the simple and the superior semilunar lobules. The interfolial fissures on this surface pass anterolaterally from the midline and are continuous with the fissures on the superior half of the petrosal surface.
The suboccipital surface, located below and between the lateral and sigmoid sinuses, is the most complex of the three surfaces (Figs. 1.2 and 1.5). Operative approaches to the fourth ventricle and most cerebellar tumors are commonly directed around or through this surface. It has a deep vertical depression, the posterior cerebellar incisura, which contains a fold of dura, the falx cerebelli. The vermis is folded into and forms the cortical surface within this incisura. The lateral walls of the incisura are formed by the medial aspects of the cerebellar hemispheres. Deep clefts, the vermohemispheric fissures, separate the vermis from the hemispheres. The vermian surface within the incisura has a diamond shape. The upper half of the diamond-shaped formation has a pyramidal shape and is called the pyramid. The folium and the tuber, superior to the pyramid, form the apex of the suboccipital part of the vermis. The lower half of the diamond-shaped formation, the uvula, projects downward between the tonsils, thus mimicking the situation in the oropharynx. The rostromedial margin of the tonsils borders the tapering edges of the uvula. The nodule, the lowermost subdivision of the vermis, is hidden deep to the uvula. The strip of vermis within the incisura is broadest at the junction of the pyramid and uvula. Inferiorly, the posterior cerebellar incisura is continuous with the vallecula cerebelli, a cleft between the tonsils that leads through the fora- men of Magendie into the fourth ventricle.
The hemispheric portion of the suboccipital surface is formed by the superior and inferior semilunar and biventral lobules and the tonsils, and the vermic portion is formed by the folium, tuber, pyramid, and uvula. The vermian and the related hemispheric parts from above to below are the folium and the superior semilunar lobules, the tuber and the inferior semilunar lobules, the pyramid and the biventral lobules, and the uvula and the tonsils.
The suboccipital surface is divided at its major fissure, the suboccipital fissure, into superior and inferior parts. The sub- occipital fissure has a vermian and a hemispheric part. The vermian part of this fissure, the prepyramidal fissure, separates the tuber and the pyramid, and the hemispheric part, the prebiventral fissure, separates the biventral and the inferior semilunar lobules. The prebiventral and prepyramidal fissures are continuous at the vermohemispheric junction, and together they form the suboccipital fissure. The petrosal fissure, the major fissure on the petrosal surface, extends from the petrosal surface onto the suboccipital surface, and separates the superior and inferior semilunar lobules laterally and the folium and the tuber medially. The tonsillobiventral fis- sure separates the tonsil and the biventral lobule.
The tonsils, the most prominent structure blocking access to the caudal part of the fourth ventricle, are a hemispheric component (Figs. 1.5 and 1.6). Each tonsil is an ovoid structure in the inferomedial part of the suboccipital surface that is attached to the remainder of the cerebellum along its superolateral border by a white matter bundle called the tonsillar peduncle. The remaining tonsillar surfaces are free surfaces. The inferior pole and posterior surface face the cisterna magna and are visible inferomedial to the remainder of the suboccipital surface. The lateral surface of each tonsil is covered by, but is separated from, the biventral lobule by a narrow cleft, except superiorly at the level of the tonsillar peduncle. The medial, anterior, and superior surfaces all face other neural structures, but are separated from them by narrow fissures. The anterior surface of each tonsil faces and is separated from the posterior surface of the medulla by the cerebellomedullary fissure. The medial surfaces of the tonsils face each other across a narrow cleft, the vallecula, which leads into the fourth ventricle. The ventral aspect of the superior pole of each tonsil faces the three structures (tela choroidea, inferior medullary velum, and nodule) forming the lower half of the roof of the fourth ventricle. The superior pole is separated from the surrounding structures by a posterior extension of the cerebellomedullary fissure, called either the telovelotonsillar or supratonsillar cleft. The posterior aspect of the superior pole faces the uvula medially and the biventral lobule laterally.
The petrosal or anterior surface faces the posterior surface of the petrous bones, the brainstem, and the fourth ventricle (Figs. 1.2 and 1.7). The lateral or hemispheric part of the petrosal surface rests against the petrous bone and is retracted to expose the cerebellopontine angle. The median or vermian part of the petrosal surface has a deep longitudinal furrow, the anterior cerebellar incisura, that wraps around the posterior surface of the brainstem and fourth ventricle. The right and left halves of the petrosal surfaces are not connected from side to side by a continuous strip of vermis, as are the suboccipital and tentorial surfaces, because of the interposition of the fourth ventricle between the superior and inferior part of the vermis. The vermal components rostral to the fourth ventricle are the lingula, the central lobule, and the culmen, and those caudal to the fourth ventricle are the nodule and the uvula. The hemispheric surfaces are formed by the wings of the central lobule and the anterior surfaces of the quadrangular, simple, biventral, and superior and inferior semilunar lobules, the tonsils, and the flocculi. The vermian and related hemispheric parts are the central lobule and the wings of the central lobule, the culmen and the quadrangular lobules, the nodule and the flocculi, and the uvula and the tonsils. The major fissure on this surface, the petrosal fissure, also called the horizontal fissure, splits the petrosal surface into superior and inferior parts and extends onto the suboccipital surface between the superior and inferior semilunar lobules.
THE FOURTH VENTRICLE AND THE CEREBELLAR-BRAINSTEM FISSURES
The fourth ventricle is a broad, tent-shaped midline cavity located between the cerebellum and the brainstem. It is connected rostrally through the aqueduct with the third ventricle, caudally through the foramen of Magendie with the cisterna magna, and laterally through the foramina of Luschka with the cerebellopontine angles. Most of the cranial nerves arise near its floor. It has a roof, a floor, and two lateral recesses. It is ventral to the cerebellum, dorsal to the pons and medulla, and medial to the cerebellar peduncles.
The ventricular roof is tent-shaped (Figs. 1.8 and 1.9). The roof expands laterally and posteriorly from its narrow rostral end just below the aqueduct to the level of the fastigium and lateral recess, the site of its greatest height and width, and from there it tapers to a narrow caudal apex at the level of the foramen of Magendie. The apex of the roof, the fastigium, divides it into superior and inferior parts. The superior part is distinctly different from the inferior part, in that the inferior part is formed largely by thin membranous layers and the superior part is formed by thicker neural structures.
The external or cisternal surfaces of the structures forming the roof are intimately related to the fissures between the cerebellum and brainstem. The three fissures formed by the embryological folding of the cerebellum around the brainstem are the cerebellomesencephalic fissure, which extends inferiorly between the cerebellum and mesencephalon and is intimately related to the superior half of the roof (Figs. 1.3 and 1.4); the cerebellopontine fissures, which are formed by the folding of the cerebellum around the lateral sides of the pons and are intimately related to the lateral recesses (Figs. 1.7 and 1.8); and the cerebellomedullary fissure, which extends superiorly between the cerebellum and the medulla and is intimately related to the inferior half of the roof (Figs. 1.5 and 1.6).
A major cerebellar artery and vein course in each fissure. The superior cerebellar artery (SCA) and the vein of the cerebellomesencephalic fissure course within the cerebellomesencephalic fissure, the anteroinferior cerebellar artery (AICA) and the vein of the cerebellopontine fissure are related to the cerebellopontine fissure, and the posteroinferior cerebellar artery (PICA) and the vein of the cerebellomedullary fissure are intimately related to the cerebellomedullary fissure. These arteries and veins will be reviewed in the next two chapters on the cerebellar arteries and posterior fossa veins (10, 18, 19).
Each fissure communicates with the adjacent fissure. The cerebellopontine fissures are continuous around the rostral surface of the middle cerebellar peduncles with the caudal edges of the cerebellomesencephalic fissure and around the caudal margin of the middle cerebellar peduncles with the rostral limits of the cerebellomedullary fissure. These fissures will be reviewed in greater detail in the discussion of the roof and lateral recesses of the fourth ventricle.
Upper ventricular roof and the cerebellomesencephalic fissure
The ventricular surface of the superior part of the roof of the fourth ventricle is divided into a single median and two lateral parts (Figs. 1.3 and 1.4). The median part is formed by the superior medullary velum, and the lateral parts (also referred to as the lateral walls) are formed by the inner surface of the cerebellar peduncles. The superior medullary velum is a thin lamina of white matter that spans the interval between the superior cerebellar peduncles and has the lingula, the uppermost division of the vermis, on its outer surface. It is continuous at the fastigium with the inferior medullary velum. The rostral portion of the ventricular surface of each lateral wall is formed by the medial surface of the superior cerebellar peduncle, and the caudal part is formed by the inferior cerebellar peduncle.
The middle cerebellar peduncle, although it is the largest component of the fiber bundle formed by the union of the three cerebellar peduncles, is separated from the ventricular surface by the fibers of the inferior and superior peduncles on its medial surface (Fig. 1.9). The fibers of the inferior cerebellar peduncle ascend in the posterolateral medulla and turn posteriorly in the inferomedial part of the fiber bundle formed by the union of the three peduncles to line the ventricular surface of the superior margin of the lateral recess and the inferior part of the lateral wall. The fibers of the superior cerebellar peduncle arise in the dentate nucleus and ascend on the medial side of the middle cerebellar peduncle to form the ventricular surface of the superior part of the lateral wall.
The cisternal (external) surface of the structures forming the superior part of the roof also form the anterior wall of the cerebellomesencephalic fissure. This fissure, which extends inferiorly between the cerebellum and midbrain, is V-shaped when viewed from superiorly (Figs. 1.3 and 1.4). This fissure has also been referred to as the precentral cerebellar fissure. The dorsal half of the midbrain sits within the limbs of the V-shaped notch, and the cerebellum forms the outer margin, with the apex being posterior. The inner wall of the fissure, which forms the outer surface of the superior part of the roof, is composed of the lingula, the dorsal surface of the superior cerebellar peduncles, and the rostral surface of the middle cerebellar peduncles. The lingula, a thin, narrow tongue of vermis, sits on the outer surface of the superior medullary velum. The superior cerebellar peduncles form smooth longitudinal prominences on each side of the lingula before disappearing into the midbrain beneath the colliculi. The rostral surface of the middle cerebellar peduncles appear to wrap around the caudal margin of the superior cerebellar peduncles. A shallow groove, the interpeduncular sulcus, marks the junction of the superior and the middle cerebellar peduncles. The interpeduncular sulcus is continuous anteriorly with the pontomesencephalic sulcus, a transverse groove between the pons and midbrain, and superiorly with the lateral mesencephalic sulcus, a longitudinal fissure dorsal to the cerebral peduncle. The trochlear nerves arise in the cerebellomesencephalic fissure below the inferior colliculi and pass anterolateral to exit the anterior part of the fissure. The outer wall of the cerebellomesencephalic fissure is formed by the culmen and the central lobule and its wings.
The neural structures separating the ventricular and cisternal surfaces of the superior part of the roof are thinnest in the area of the superior medullary velum and lingula and thickest in the area of the cerebellar peduncles. The rostral portion of each lateral wall, formed by only the superior cerebellar peduncle, is thinner than the caudal portion, which is formed by the three cerebellar peduncles after they have united.
Lower roof and cerebellomedullary fissure
The inferior portion of the roof slopes sharply ventral and slightly caudal from the fastigium to its attachment to the inferolateral borders of the floor (Figs. 1.3–1.6). The ventricular and cisternal surfaces are formed by the same structures, the tela choroidea and the inferior medullary velum, except in the rostral midline, where the ventricular surface is formed by the nodule and the cisternal surface is formed by the uvula. The choroid plexus is attached to the ventricular surface of the tela choroidea.
The ventricular surface is divided into a cranial part formed by the nodule and the inferior medullary velum and a caudal part formed by the tela choroidea. The inferior medullary velum is a membranous layer and is all that remains of the connection between the nodule and the flocculi that form the flocculonodular lobe of the primitive cerebellum (14) (Figs. 1.8 and 1.9). It is a thin bilateral semitranslucent butterfly-shaped sheet of neural tissue that blends into the ventricular surface of the nodule medially and stretches laterally across, but is separated from, the superior pole of the tonsil by a narrow, rostral extension of the cerebellomedullary fissure. It blends into the dorsal margin of each lateral recess and forms the peduncle of each flocculus. The inferior medullary velum is continuous at the level of the fastigium with the superior medullary velum. Caudally it is attached to the tela choroidea.
The tela choroidea forms the caudal part of the inferior portion of the roof and the inferior wall of each lateral recess (Figs. 1.5, 1.6, and 1.9). It consists of two thin, semitransparent membranes, each having a thickness comparable to arachnoid, between which is sandwiched a vascular layer composed of the choroidal arteries and veins. The choroid plexus projects from the ventricular surface of the tela choroidea into the fourth ventricle. The line of attachment of the inferior medullary velum to the tela choroidea, the telovelar junction, extends from the nodule into each lateral recess. The tela choroidea sweeps inferiorly from the telovelar junction around the superior pole of each tonsil to its attachment to the inferolateral edges of the floor along narrow white ridges, the taeniae, which meet at the obex. Cranially, the taeniae turn laterally over the inferior cerebellar peduncles and pass horizontally along the inferior borders of the lateral recesses. The tela choroidea does not completely enclose the inferior half of the fourth ventricle, but has three openings into the subarachnoid space: the paired foramina of Luschka located at the outer margin of the lateral recesses and the foramen of Magendie located at the caudal tip of the fourth ventricle.
The cisternal (external) surface of the caudal half of the roof faces and is intimately related to the cerebellomedullary fissure (Figs. 1.6, 1.8, and 1.9). This fissure is one of the most complex fissures in the brain. The ventral wall of the fissure is formed by the posterior surface of the medulla, the inferior medullary velum, and the tela choroidea. The dorsal wall of the fissure is formed by the uvula in the midline and the tonsils and biventral lobules laterally. It extends superiorly to the level of the lateral recesses and communicates around the superior poles of the tonsils with the cisterna magna, through the foramen of Magendie with the fourth ventricle, and around the foramina of Luschka with the cerebellopontine fissures. The rostral pole of the tonsils faces the inferior medullary velum, the tela choroidea, and the peritonsillar part of the uvula and the biventral lobule in the superior part of the fissure (Figs. 1.3–1.6). The portion of the fissure between the tonsil, the tela choroidea, and the inferior medullary velum is called the telovelotonsillar cleft, and the superior extension of this cleft over the superior pole of the tonsil has been called the supratonsillar cleft.
LATERAL RECESS AND CEREBELLOPONTINE FISSURE
The lateral recesses are narrow, curved pouches formed by the union of the roof and the floor. They extend laterally below the cerebellar peduncles and open through the foramina of Luschka into the cerebellopontine angles (Figs. 1.3, 1.5, 1.6, and 1.8). The ventral wall of each lateral recess is formed by the junctional part of the floor and the rhomboid lip, a sheetlike layer of neural tissue that extends laterally from the floor and unites with the tela choroidea to form a pouch at the outer extremity of the lateral recess. The rostral wall of each lateral recess is formed by the caudal margin of the cerebellar peduncles. The inferior cerebellar peduncle courses upward in the floor ventral to the lateral recess and turns posteriorly at the lower part of the pons to form the ventricular surface of the rostral wall. The peduncle of the flocculus interconnecting the inferior medullary velum and the flocculus crosses in the dorsal margin of the lateral recess. The caudal wall is formed by the tela choroidea that stretches from the lateral part of the taenia to the peduncle of the flocculus. The biventral lobule is dorsal to the lateral recess. The flocculus is superior to the outer extremity of the lateral recess. The rootlets of the glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves arise ventral to and the facial nerve arises rostral to the lateral recess. The fibers of the vestibulocochlear nerve cross the floor of the recess.
Each lateral recess opens into the cerebellopontine angle along the cerebellopontine fissure (Fig. 1.7). This V-shaped fissure is formed by the folding of the cerebellar hemisphere around the lateral side of the pons and the middle cerebellar peduncle. It has a superior limb between the rostral half of the middle cerebellar peduncle and the superior part of the petrosal surface and an inferior limb between the caudal half of the middle cerebellar peduncle and the inferior part of the petrosal surface. The middle cerebellar peduncle fills the interval between the two limbs. The apex of the fissure is located laterally where the superior and inferior limbs meet. The petrosal fissure extends laterally from the apex. The lateral recess and the foramen of Luschka open into the medial part of the inferior limb. Other structures located along the inferior limb are the flocculus, the rhomboid lip, the choroid plexus protruding from the fora- men of Luschka, and the facial, vestibulocochlear, glossopharyngeal, and vagus nerves. The trigeminal nerve arises from the pons along the superior limb of the fissure.
The superior limb of the cerebellopontine fissure communicates above the trigeminal nerve with the lateral part of the cerebellomesencephalic fissure, and the inferior limb communicates with the lateral part of the cerebellomedullary fissure at the level of the lateral recess. The flocculus projects into the cerebellopontine angle at the confluence of the cerebellopontine and cerebellomedullary fissures. The vestibulocochlear and facial nerves enter the brainstem anterosuperior to the flocculus, and the fila of the glossopharyngeal and the vagal nerves cross anteroinferiorly to it.
The choroid plexus of the posterior fossa is composed of two inverted L-shaped fringes that arise on the ventricular surface of the tela choroidea and are located on each side of the midline (7) (Figs. 1.3 and 1.8). The paired longitudinal limbs bordering the median plane are the medial segments. The transverse limbs that originate from the rostral ends of the medial segments are the lateral segments. The entire structure presents the form of a letter T, the vertical limb of which, however, is double.
The medial segments are located in the roof near the midline, and the lateral segments extend through the lateral recesses and the foramina of Luschka into the cerebellopontine angles. The medial segments stretch from the level of the nodule anterior to the tonsils to the level of the foramen of Magendie. Each medial segment is subdivided into a rostral or nodular part and a caudal or tonsillar part. The nodular parts are widest at their junction with the lateral segments. The tonsillar parts are anterior to the tonsils and extend inferiorly through the foramen of Magendie. The rostral and caudal ends of the medial segments are often fused.
The lateral segments form a transversely oriented fringe that attach to the rostral part of the medial segments and extend parallel to the telovelar junction through the lateral recesses into the cerebellopontine angles. Each lateral segment is subdivided into a medial or peduncular part and a lateral or floccular part. The peduncular part forms a narrow fringe that is continuous with the rostral part of the medial segment and is attached to the tela choroidea covering the lateral recess inferior to the cerebellar peduncles. The floccular part is continuous with the peduncular part at the lateral margin of the cerebellar peduncles and protrudes through the foramen of Luschka into the cerebellopontine angle below the flocculus.
BRAINSTEM AND FLOOR
The brainstem and ventricle floor are considered together because the brainstem forms the fourth ventricular floor. The brainstem in the posterior fossa is composed of the mesencephalon, pons, and medulla (Figs. 1.7–1.9). The mesencephalon consists of the cerebral peduncles, the tegmentum, and the tectum. It is demarcated superiorly from the diencephalon by the sulcus between the optic tracts and the cerebral peduncles, and inferiorly from the pons by the pontomesencephalic sulcus. The interpeduncular fossa, a wedge-shaped depression between the cerebral peduncles, has the posterior perforated substance in its floor. The rootlets of the oculomotor nerves arise in the depths of the interpeduncular fossa and form the fossa’s walls lateral to the posterior perforated sub- stance. A small depression, the superior foramen cecum, is located in the caudal part of the interpeduncular fossa. The pontomesencephalic sulcus runs from the superior foramen cecum around the cerebral peduncles to join the lateral mesencephalic sulcus, a vertical sulcus between the tegmentum and the cerebral peduncle.
The belly of the pons is convex from side to side, as well as from top to bottom, and is continuous on each side with the middle cerebellar peduncles. It has a shallow midline groove, the basilar sulcus, which extends from its superior to its inferior border. The posterior root of the trigeminal nerve emerges from the upper portion of the middle cerebellar peduncle just below the anterior angle of the cerebellum. The pons is demarcated inferiorly from the medulla by the pontomedullary sulcus, which extends laterally from the inferior foramen cecum (a midline dimple) to the supraolivary fossette (a depression located rostral to the olive). The rootlets of the facial and the vestibulocochlear nerves arise superior to this fossette and the rootlets of the glossopharyngeal and the vagal nerves originate dorsal to it.
The anterior surface of the medulla is formed by the medullary pyramids, which face the clivus, the anterior edge of the foramen magnum, and the rostral part of the odontoid process (Figs. 1.7 and 1.8). The anteromedian sulcus divides the upper medulla in the anterior midline between the pyramids and disappears on the lower medulla at the level of the decussation of the pyramids, but it reappears below the decussation and is continuous caudally with the anteromedian fissure of the spinal cord. The lateral surface of the medulla is formed predominantly by the inferior olives, which are situated lateral to and separated from the pyramids by the anterolateral (preolivary) sulcus. The rootlets of the hypoglossal nerves arise in the anterolateral sulcus. The lateral surface is demarcated posteriorly by the exits of the rootlets of the glossopharyngeal, vagus, and accessory nerves just dorsal to the posterolateral (postolivary) sulcus, which courses along the dorsal margin of the olive and is continuous below with the posterolateral sulcus of the spinal cord. The abducens nerves emerge from the pontomedullary sulcus rostral to the pyramids. The posterior surface of the medulla is divided into superior and inferior parts. The superior part is composed in the midline of the inferior half of the floor of the fourth ventricle and laterally by the inferior cerebellar peduncles. The inferior part of the posterior surface is divided into two halves in the midline by the posteromedian sulcus, and each half is composed of the gracile fasciculus and tubercle medially, and the cuneate fasciculus and tubercle laterally. The posteromedian sulcus of the medulla, which separates the paired gracile fasciculi in the midline, ends superiorly at the obex of the fourth ventricle and is continuous inferiorly with the posteromedian sulcus of the spinal cord. The posterior intermediate sulcus, which separates the gracile and cuneate fasciculi, is continuous inferiorly with the posterior intermediate sulcus of the spinal cord. The lower medulla blends indistinguishably into the upper spinal cord at the level of the C1 nerve roots (Figs. 1.5–1.7).
The floor has a rhomboid shape (Fig. 1.9). The rostral two- thirds of the floor is posterior to the pons and the caudal one-third is posterior to the medulla. Its cranial apex is at the level of the cerebral aqueduct; its caudal tip, the obex, is located at the rostral end of the remnant of the spinal canal, anterior to the foramen of Magendie; and its lateral angles open through the lateral recesses and foramina of Luschka into the cerebellopontine angles. A line connecting the orifices of the lateral recesses is located at the level of the junction of the caudal and the middle third of the length of the floor and also at the level of the junction of the pons and the medulla.
The floor is divided into three parts: a superior or pontine part, an intermediate or junctional part, and an inferior or medullary part. The superior part has a triangular shape: its apex is at the cerebral aqueduct, its base is represented by an imaginary line connecting the lower margin of the cerebellar peduncles, and its lateral limbs are formed by the medial surfaces of the cerebral peduncles. The intermediate part is the strip between the lower margin of the cerebellar peduncles and the site of attachment of the tela choroidea to the taeniae just below the lateral recesses. The intermediate part extends into the lateral recesses. The inferior part has a triangular shape and is limited laterally by the taeniae marking the inferolateral margins of the floor. Its caudal tip, the obex, is anterior to the foramen of Magendie.
The floor is divided longitudinally from the rostral apex to the caudal tip into symmetrical halves by the median sulcus. The sulcus limitans, another longitudinal sulcus, divides each half of the floor into a raised median strip, called the median eminence, that borders the midline and a lateral region called the vestibular area.
Each median eminence, the strip between the sulcus limitans and the median sulcus, from above to below contains the facial colliculus, a rounded prominence related to the facial nerve, and three triangular areas overlying the hypoglossal and vagus nuclei and the area postrema. The three triangular areas are paired and are stacked along the median sulcus to give the caudal part of the floor a feather or pen nib configuration; thus, the area is called the calamus scriptorius. At the pontine level the median eminence has a width equal to that of the full half of the floor and thus the sulcus limitans corresponds with the lateral limit of this part of the floor.
The sulcus limitans is discontinuous and is most prominent in the pontine and medullary portions of the floor, where it deepens at two points to form dimples called foveae, and is least distinct in the junctional part of the floor. One of the two dimples, the superior fovea, is located in the pontine portion of the floor and the other, the inferior fovea, is located in the medullary part of the floor. At the level of the superior fovea, the median eminence forms an elongated swelling, the facial colliculus, which overlies the nucleus of the abducens nerve and the ascending section of the root of the facial nerve. At the rostral tip of each sulcus limitans in the lateral margin of the floor is a bluish gray area, the locus ceruleus, which owes its color to a group of pigmented nerve cells. The hypoglossal triangle is medial to the inferior fovea and overlies the nu- cleus of the hypoglossal nerve. Caudal to the inferior fovea and between the hypoglossal triangle and the lower part of the vestibular area is a triangular dark field, the vagal triangle, that overlies the dorsal nucleus of the vagus nerve. A translucent ridge, the funiculus separans, crosses the lower part of the vagal triangle. The area postrema forms a small tongue- shaped area between the funiculus separans and the gracile tubercle in the lower limit of the median eminence immediately rostral to the obex.
The vestibular area, the portion of the floor lateral to the median eminence and sulcus limitans, is widest in the intermediate part of the floor, where it forms a rounded elevation that extends into the lateral recess. White strands, the striae medullaris, course transversely from the region of the lateral recess across the inferior cerebellar peduncles above the hypoglossal triangles toward the midline and disappear in the median sulcus. The vestibular nuclei lie beneath the vestibular area. The auditory tubercle produced by the underlying dorsal cochlear nucleus and the cochlear part of the vestibulocochlear nerve forms a prominence in the lateral part of the vestibular area.
Each wall of the fourth ventricle has surgically important arterial relationships: the SCA is intimately related to the superior half of the roof; the PICA is intimately related to the inferior half of the roof; the AICA is intimately related to the lateral recess and the foramen of Luschka; and the basilar and vertebral arteries give rise to many perforating branches that reach the floor of the fourth ventricle (5, 7, 9, 10, 18, 19) (Figs. 1.9 and 1.10). The choroidal branches of the AICA supply the portion of the choroid plexus in the cerebellopontine angle and the adjacent part of the lateral recess, and the PICA supplies the choroid plexus in the roof and the medial part of the lateral recess (7).
There are no major veins within the cavity of the fourth ventricle. The veins most intimately related to the fourth ventricle are those in the fissures between the cerebellum and the brainstem and on the cerebellar peduncle (21). The veins of the cerebellomesencephalic fissure and the superior cerebellar peduncle course on the superior part of the roof, the veins of the cerebellomedullary fissure and the inferior cerebellar peduncle drain the inferior half of the roof, and the veins of the cerebellopontine fissure and the middle cerebellar peduncle drain the lateral wall and the cerebellopontine angle around the lateral recess. These vascular relationships will be explored in greater detail in the next two chapters on the cerebellar arteries and posterior fossa veins.
Effects of neural injury
The operative approaches to the cerebellum and fourth ventricle may require splitting of the vermis, resection of part of the hemisphere, removal of the tonsil, opening of the inferior medullary velum, separation of tumor from the floor and roof, dissection in the region of the cerebellar peduncles and deep cerebellar nuclei, and retraction or removal of the flocculus. Horsley pointed out that large amounts of cerebellar tissue could be sacrificed with little or no demonstrable loss of function (13). A common approach to the fourth ventricle is by splitting the vermis on the suboccipital surface, as recommended by Dandy (3) and Kempe (15). Dandy stated that the vermis could be opened at its center to gain access to fourth ventricular tumors without causing a disturbance of function, provided that the operator carefully avoided the dentate nuclei (3). Small lesions in the vermis caused no symptoms or deficit, but larger lesions of the uvula, nodule, and flocculus, involving cerebellar fibers related to the vestibular system, cause equilibratory disturbances, with truncal ataxia, staggering gait, and oscillation of the head and trunk on assumption of the erect position without ataxia on voluntary movement of the extremities (8, 11, 12, 16). Injury to the vestibular projections from the brainstem to the flocculonodular lobe also causes nystagmus that is present in all directions of gaze. Cerebellar mutism is a transient complication that may ap- pear after removal of cerebellar tumors, usually in children, characterized by lack of speech output in the awake patient, with intact speech comprehension, sometimes associated with oropharyngeal apraxia (2, 4, 24). Although the exact anatomic substrate for the mutism remains unknown, the majority occurred after removal of midline tumors involving the vermis (2, 4, 24, 26). The inferior part of the vermis, including the pyramid, uvula, and nodule has been implicated.
Hemispheric resection may be required to reach lesions of the lateral part of the roof or the lateral recess of the fourth ventricle. Frazier resected the lateral part of the hemisphere without permanent sequelae (6). Unilateral resection of the part of the hemisphere lateral to the dentate nuclei results in ataxia of voluntary movement, hypotonia, and adiadochokiksnesia in the ipsilateral limbs with errors in rate, range, direction, and force of movement, which are often transient (8, 11, 12, 16). If the ablation involves the dentate nucleus, these disturbances are more severe and enduring and there is, in addition, intention tremor with voluntary movement of the extremities. During an operation on the caudal part of the roof, one should remember that the denate nuclei are located just rostral to the superior pole of the tonsils and are wrapped around the superolateral recess of the ventricle near the inferior medullary velum. Dysarthria results when resection extends into the paravermian part of the cerebellar hemisphere and occurs more frequently from left hemisphere injury than from vermal or right hemisphere injury (17). Nystagmus with hemispheric lesions is associated with an ocular rest point 10 to 30 degrees toward the unaffected side, with greater oscillation upon looking to the side of the lesion. The addition of a vermian lesion or a lesion extending to the contralateral hemisphere produces more marked symptoms than a unilateral hemispheric lesion and is associated with disturbances of standing, walking, and speech. Lesions of the anterior part of the tentorial surface result in increased tone in the muscles used for maintaining the erect posture. If the lateral half of this area is damaged, the hypertonia is predominantly in the ipsilateral extremities.
All of the cerebellar peduncles converge on the lateral wall and roof and may be damaged here. The inferior and superior cerebellar peduncles are more likely to be injured during procedures within the ventricle because they abut directly on the ventricular surface; the middle cerebellar peduncle would be more susceptible to injury in procedures near the external wall such as those in the cerebellopontine angle because it forms a major part of the cisternal surface of the ventricular wall. Lesions of the middle cerebellar peduncle cause ataxia and dysmetria during voluntary movement of the ipsilateral extremities with hypotonia similar to that produced by dam- age to the lateral part of the hemisphere. Lesions of the superior cerebellar peduncle cause severe ipsilateral intention tremor, dysmetria, and decomposition of movement. The syndrome is mild and subsides rapidly if there is only a partial section of the peduncle. Section of the inferior cerebellar peduncle causes disturbances of equilibrium similar to those produced by ablation of the flocculonodular lobe, with truncal ataxia and staggering gait.
The consequences of removal or gentle manipulation of tumors attached to the floor of the fourth ventricle include intraoperative blood pressure decrease, apnea, and/or respiratory rate increase and postoperative diplopia, disturbances of speech and swallowing, and poor cough reflex associated with incidental disturbances of gastrointestinal bleeding, aspiration pneumonia, and electrolyte disturbances (1).
Telovelar approach to fourth ventricle
Lesions of the fourth ventricle have posed a special challenge to neurosurgeons because of the severe deficits that may follow injury to the structures in the ventricular walls and floor. In the past, operative access to the fourth ventricle was obtained by splitting the cerebellar vermis or removing part of a cerebellar hemisphere (1, 3, 15). In examining the clefts and walls of the cerebellomedullary fissure, we have found that opening the tela alone will provide adequate ventricular exposure in most cases without splitting the vermis (20, 22, 23) (Fig. 1.10). The inferior medullary velum, another paper-thin layer, can also be opened if opening the tela does not provide adequate exposure. Opening the tela alone provides access to the full length of the floor and all of the ventricular cavity except, possibly, the fastigium, superolateral recess, and the superior half of the roof. Opening the inferior medullary velum accesses the latter areas and the superior half of the roof. Extending the telar opening laterally toward the foramen of Luschka opens the lateral recess and exposes the peduncular surfaces bordering the recess. Tumors in the fourth ventricle may stretch and thin these two semi-translucent membranes to a degree that one may not be aware that they are being opened in exposing a fourth ventricular tumor. There are no reports of deficits following isolate opening of the tela and velum. However, other structures exposed in the ventricle walls and at risk for producing the deficits described above include the dentate nuclei, cerebellar peduncles, floor of the fourth ventricle, and the PICA. During an operation on the caudal part of the roof, one should remember that the dentate nuclei are located just rostral to the superior pole of the tonsils underlying the dentate tubercles in the posterolateral part of the roof where they are wrapped around the superolateral recesses near the lateral edges of the inferior medullary velum (Figs. 1.9 and 1.10). All of the cerebellar peduncles converge on the lateral wall and roof where they may be damaged. The superior cerebellar peduncle is more likely to be injured during operations on lesions involving the superior part of the roof above the level of the dentate tubercles; the inferior peduncles are most susceptible to damage in exposing lesions within the lateral recess; and the middle cerebellar peduncle is susceptible to injury in procedures near the external wall of the superior half of the roof, such as those in the cerebellopontine angle, because the middle peduncle forms a major part of the cisternal surface of the ventricular wall. The consequences of removal or gentle manipulation of tumors attached to the floor of the fourth ventricle have been reviewed.
The PICA is frequently exposed in approaches directed through the tela choroidea or inferior medullar velum, but only infrequently occluded during operative approaches to the fourth ventricle. Occlusion of the branches of the PICA distal to the medullary branches at the level of roof of the fourth ventricle avoids the syndrome of medullary infarction but produces a syndrome resembling labyrinthitis, which includes rotatory dizziness, nausea, vomiting, inability to stand or walk unaided, and nystagmus without appendicular dysmetria (11). The main trunk of the AICA is infrequently exposed in opening the cerebellomedullary fissure, but it may also send choroidal branches to the tela and choroid plexus in the lateral recess.
Contributor: Albert L. Rhoton, Jr., MD
Content from Rhoton AL. The Posterior Cranial Fossa: Microsurgical Anatomy and Surgical Approaches. Neurosurgery 47(3), 2000, 10.1097/00006123-200105000-00065. With permission of Oxford University Press on behalf of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.
The Neurosurgical Atlas is honored to maintain the legacy of Albert L. Rhoton Jr., MD
- Baker GS: Physiologic abnormalities encountered after removal of brain tumors from the floor of the fourth ventricle. J Neurosurg 23:338–343, 1965.
- Dailey AT, McKahann GM, Berger MS: The pathophysiology of oral pharyngeal apraxia and mutism following posterior fossa tumor resection in children. J Neurosurg 83:467–475, 1995.
- Dandy WE: The Brain. Hagerstown, WF Prior Co., 1966, pp 452–458.
- Dietze DD, Mickle JP: Cerebellar mutism after posterior fossa surgery. Pediatr Neurosurg 16:25–31, 1990–1991.
- Duvernoy HM: Human Brainstem Vessels. Berlin, Springer-Verlag, 1978.
- Frazier CH: Remarks upon the surgical aspects of tumors of the cerebellum. N Y State J Med 18:272–280, 332–337, 1918.
- Fujii K, Lenkey C, Rhoton AL Jr: Microsurgical anatomy of the choroidal arteries: Fourth ventricle and cerebellopontine angles. J Neurosurg 52:504–524, 1980.
- Fulton JF, Dow RS: The cerebellum: A summary of functional localization. Yale J Biol Med 10:89–119, 1937.
- Hardy DG, Rhoton AL Jr: Microsurgical relationship of the supe- rior cerebellar artery and the trigeminal nerve. J Neurosurg 49: 669–678, 1978.
- Hardy DG, Peace DA, Rhoton AL Jr: Microsurgical anatomy of the superior cerebellar artery. Neurosurgery 6:10–28, 1980.
- Holmes G: The Croonian lectures on the clinical symptoms of cerebellar disease and their interpretation. Lancet 1:1177–1182, 1231–1237, 1922.
- Holmes G: The Croonian lectures on the clinical symptoms of cerebellar disease and their interpretation. Lancet 2:59–65, 111– 115, 1922.
- Horsley V: On the technique of operations on the central nervous system. Br Med J 2:411–423, 1906.
- Johnston TB: A note on the peduncle of the flocculus and the posterior medullary velum. J Anat 68:471–479, 1934.
- Kempe LG: Operative Neurosurgery. New York, Springer-Verlag, 1970, vol 2, pp 14–17.
- Larsell O: The cerebellum: A review and interpretation. Arch Neurol Psychiatry 38:580–607, 1937.
- Lechtenberg R, Gilman S: Speech disorders in cerebellar disease. Ann Neurol 3:285–290, 1978.
- Lister JR, Rhoton AL Jr, Matsushima T, Peace DA: Microsurgical anatomy of the posterior inferior cerebellar artery. Neurosurgery 10:170–199, 1982.
- MartinRG,GrantJL,PeaceD,TheissC,RhotonALJr:Microsurgical relationships of the anterior inferior cerebellar artery and the facial- vestibulocochlear nerve complex. Neurosurgery 6:483–507, 1980.
- Matsushima T, Fukui M, Inoue T, Natori Y, Baba T, Fujii K: Microsurgical and magnetic resonance imaging anatomy of the cerebellomedullary fissure and its application during fourth ven- tricle surgery. Neurosurgery 30:325–330, 1992.
- Matsushima T, Rhoton AL Jr, de Oliveira E, Peace D: Microsur- gical anatomy of the veins of the posterior fossa. J Neurosurg 59:63–105, 1983.
- Matsushima T, Rhoton AL Jr, Lenkey C: Microsurgery of the fourth ventricle: Part I—Microsurgical anatomy. Neurosurgery 11:631–667, 1982.
- Mussi A, Rhoton AL Jr:Telovelar approach to the fourth ventricle: Microsurgical anatomy. J Neurosurg 92:812–823, 2000.
- Pollack IF, Polinko P, Albright L, Towbin R, Fitz C: Mutism and pseudobulbar symptoms after resection of posterior fossa tumors in children: Incidence and pathophysiology. Neurosurgery 37: 885–893, 1995.
- Rhoton AL Jr: Microsurgical anatomy of posterior fossa cranial nerves, in Barrow DL (ed): Surgery of the Cranial Nerves of the Posterior Fossa: Neurosurgical Topics. Chicago, AANS, 1993, pp 1–103.
- Van Calenbergh F, Van de Laar A, Plets C, Goffin J, Casaer P: Transient cerebellar mutism after posterior fossa surgery in children. Neurosurgery 37:894–898, 1995.
Please login to post a comment.