In the current neurosurgical and anatomical literature, the intracanalicular segment of the ophthalmic artery (OphA) is usually described to be within the optic nerve dural sheath (ONDS), implying direct contact between the nerve and the artery inside the optic canal. In the present study, the authors sought to clarify the exact relationship between the OphA and ONDS.
Ten cadaveric heads were subjected to endoscopic endonasal and transcranial exposures of the OphA in the optic canal (5 for each approach). The relationship between the OphA and ONDS was assessed. Histological examination of one specimen of the optic nerve and the accompanying OphA was also performed to confirm the relationship with the ONDS.
In all specimens, the OphA coursed between the two layers of the dura (endosteal and meningeal) and was not in direct contact with the optic nerve, except for the first few millimeters of the proximal optic canal before it pierced the ONDS. Upon reaching the orbit, the two layers of the dura separated and allowed the OphA to literally float within the orbital fat. The meningeal dura continued as the ONDS, whereas the endosteal dura became the periorbita.
This study clarifies the interdural course of the OphA within the optic canal. This anatomical nuance has important neurosurgical implications regarding safe exposure and manipulation of the OphA.