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Structures Below the Medial Part of the Anterior and Middle Cranial Fossae

Surgical Correlation


A, Midsagittal section of the anterior and middle cranial base to the right of the nasal septum. The area below the medial part of the anterior cranial fossa is formed by the frontal and ethmoidal sinuses and the nasal cavity. The nasal cavity is divided into the inferior, middle, and superior meatus and the sphenoethmoidal recess by the inferior, middle, and superior cochlea. The inferior meatus is located below the inferior turbinate, and the sphenoethmoidal recess, into which the sphenoid sinus opens, is located above the superior turbinate. The central part of the middle cranial base is formed by the body of the sphenoid bone, which contains the sphenoid sinus and sella with the pituitary gland. The cribriform plate is located in the roof of the nasal cavity. The nasopharynx and the opening of the eustachian tube are located below the sphenoid sinus. B, Some of the mucosa has been removed from the concha. The inferior concha is a separate bone attached to the maxilla. The middle and superior concha are appendages of the ethmoid bone. The carotid artery courses along the lateral margin of the sphenoid sinus. The prominence within the sphenoid sinus, formed by the superior orbital fissure, is located anterior to the intracavernous carotid, and the prominence overlying the maxillary nerve is located below the intracavernous carotid. C, The middle and superior turbinates have been removed to expose the ostia of the maxillary and frontal sinuses. Both open into the middle meatus below the middle turbinate. The nasolacrimal duct opens below the inferior concha. Rosenmüller’s fossa is located behind the eustachian tube. D, The medial wall of the maxillary sinus and the ethmoid air cells have been removed to expose the orbit. The optic nerve enters the orbit above the superior orbital fissure. The maxillary nerve exits the foramen rotundum to enter the pterygopalatine fossa. The vidian nerve passes through the vidian canal and enters the posterior margin of the sphenopalatine ganglion in the pterygopalatine fossa. The floor of the anterior cranial fossa forms much of the roof of the orbit, and the maxillary sinus forms most of the floor of the orbit. The abducens nerve is seen below the intracavernous segment of the internal carotid artery. The pterygopalatine fossa is located anterior to the sphenoid sinus and below the orbital apex. E, The intraorbital fat has been removed to expose the superior oblique and medial and inferior rectus muscles. F, Enlarged view of the pterygopalatine fossa. The maxillary nerve exits the foramen rotundum to enter the pterygopalatine fossa, where it gives rise to the infraorbital, zygomatic, and palatine nerves and communicating rami to the pterygopalatine ganglion. The vidian nerve exits the vidian canal to enter the pterygopalatine ganglion. The pterygopalatine fossa contains branches of the maxillary nerve, the junction of the vidian nerve with the pterygopalatine ganglion, and terminal branches of the maxillary artery. (Images courtesy of AL Rhoton, Jr.)