OBJECTIVE: Managing lesions situated in the anterior aspect of the craniovertebral junction (CVJ) remains a challenging neurosurgical problem. The purposes of this study were to examine the microsurgical anatomy of the anterior extradural aspect of the CVJ and the differences in the exposure obtained by the far lateral and extreme lateral atlanto-ocipital transarticular approaches. The far lateral approach, as originally described, is a lateral suboccipital approach directed behind the sternocleidomastoid muscle and the vertebral artery and just medial to the occipital and atlantal condyles and the atlanto-occipital joint. The extreme lateral approach, as originally described, is a direct lateral approach deep to the anterior part of the stemocleidomastoid muscle and behind the internal jugular vein along the front of the vertebral artery. Both approaches permit drilling of the condyles at the atlanto-occipital joint but provide a different exposure because of the differences in the direction of the approach.