AbstractINTRODUCTION:The infratemporal fossa (ITF) gives passage to most major cerebral vessels and cranial nerves. Dissection of the ITF is essential in many of the lateral cranial base approaches and in exposure of the high cervical internal carotid artery (ICA). We reviewed the surgical anatomy of this region.METHODS:Direct foraminal measurements were made in seven dry skulls (14 sides), and the relationship of these foramina to each other and various landmarks were determined. Ten ITF dissections were performed using a preauricular subtemporal-infratemporal approach. Preliminary dissections of the extracranial great vessels and structures larger than 1 cm were performed using standard macroscopic surgical techniques. Dissection of all structures less than 1 cm was conducted using microsurgical techniques and instruments, including the operating microscope. The anatomic relationships of the muscles, nerves, arteries, and veins were carefully recorded, with special emphasis regarding the relationship of these structures to the styloid diaphragm. The dissection was purely extradural.RESULTS:The styloid diaphragm was identified in all specimens. It divides the ITF into the prestyloid region and the retrostyloid region. The prestyloid region contains the parotid gland and associated structures, including the facial nerve and external carotid artery. The retrostyloid region contains major vascular structures (ICA, internal jugularvein) and the initial exocranial portion of the lower Cranial Nerves IX through XII. Landmarks were identified for the different cranial nerves. The bifurcation of the main trunk of the facial nerve was an average of 21 mm medial to the cartilaginous pointer and an average of 31 mm medial to the tragus of the ear. The glossopharyngeal nerve was found posterior and lateral to stylopharyngeus muscle in nine cases and medial in only one. The vagus nerve was consistently found in the angle formed posteriorly by the ICA and the internal jugular vein. The spinal accessory nerve crossed anterior to the internal jugular vein in five cases and posterior in another five cases. It could be located as it entered the medial surface of the sternocleidomastoid muscle 28 mm (mean) below the mastoid tip. The hypoglossal nerve was most consistently identified as it crossed under the sternocleidomastoid branch of the occipital artery 25 mm posterior to the angle of the mandible and 52 mm anterior and inferior to the mastoid tip.CONCLUSION:The styloid diaphragm divides the ITF into prestyloid and retrostyloid regions and covers the high cervical ICA. Using landmarks for the exocranial portion of the lower cranial nerves is useful in identifying them and avoiding injury during approaches to the high cervical ICA, the upper cervical spine, and the ITF.
Neurosurgery – Oxford University Press
Published: Oct 1, 1998
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