• Systematic review;
  • skull base;
  • septal flap;
  • cerebrospinal fluid leak;
  • dura;
  • pericranium;
  • endoscopic surgery;
  • reconstruction;
  • Level of Evidence: 3a.



Systematically review the outcomes of endoscopic endonasal techniques to reconstruct large skull base defects (ESBR). Such surgical innovation is likely to be reported in case series, retrospective cohorts, or case-control studies rather than higher level evidence.

Study Design:

Systematic review and meta-analysis.


Embase (1980–December 7, 2010) and MEDLINE (1950–November 14, 2010) were searched using a search strategy designed to include any publication on endoscopic endonasal reconstruction of the skull base. A title search selected those articles relevant to the clinical or basic science of an endoscopic approach. A subsequent abstract search selected articles of any defect other than simple cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) fistula, sella only, meningoceles, or simple case reports. The articles selected were subject to full-text review to extract data on perioperative outcomes for ESBR. Surgical technique was used for subgroup analysis.


There were 4,770 articles selected initially, and full-text analysis produced 38 studies with extractable data regarding ESBR. Of these articles, 12 described a vascularized reconstruction, 17 described free graft, and nine were mixed reconstructions. Three had mixed data in clearly defined patient groups that could be used for meta-analysis. The overall CSF leak rate was 11.5% (70/609). This was represented as a 15.6% leak rate (51/326) for free grafts and a 6.7% leak rate (19/283) for the vascularized reconstructions (χ2 = 11.88, P = .001).


Current evidence suggests that ESBR with vascularized tissue is associated with a lower rate of CSF leaks compared to free tissue graft and is similar to reported closure rates in open surgical repair.