The anatomy of the temporal branches of the facial nerve (FN) has been widely described in the neurosurgical literature because of its relevance in anterolateral approaches to the skull base and implication in frontalis palsies from these approaches. In this study, the authors attempted to describe the anatomy of the temporal branches of the FN and identify whether there are any FN branches that cross the interfascial space of the superficial and deep leaflets of the temporalis fascia.
The surgical anatomy of the temporal branches of the FN was studied bilaterally in 5 embalmed heads (n = 10 extracranial FNs). Exquisite dissections were performed to preserve the relationships of the branches of the FN and their relationship to the surrounding fascia of the temporalis muscle, the interfascial fat pad, the surrounding nerve branches, and their final terminal endpoints near the frontalis and temporalis muscles. The authors correlated their findings intraoperatively with 6 consecutive patients with interfascial dissection in which neuromonitoring was performed to stimulate the FN and associated twigs that were observed to be interfascial in 2 of them.
The temporal branches of the FN stay predominantly superficial to the superficial leaflet of the temporal fascia in the loose areolar tissue near the superficial fat pad. As they course over the frontotemporal region, they give off a twig that anastomoses with the zygomaticotemporal branch of the trigeminal nerve, which crosses the superficial layer of the temporalis muscle, spanning the interfascial fat pad, and then pierces the deep temporalis fascial layer. This anatomy was observed in 10 of the 10 FNs dissected. Intraoperatively, stimulation of this interfascial segment yielded no facial muscle response up to 1 mA in any of the patients.
The temporal branch of the FN gives off a twig that anastomoses with the zygomaticotemporal nerve, which crosses the superficial and deep leaflets of the temporal fascia. Interfascial surgical techniques aimed at protecting the frontalis branch of the FN are safe in their efforts to protect against frontalis palsy with no clinical sequelae when executed properly.