Endoscopic transmaxillary approaches (ETMAs) address pathology of the anterolateral skull base, including the cavernous sinus, pterygopalatine fossa, and infratemporal fossa. This anatomically complex region contains branches of the trigeminal nerve and external carotid artery and is in proximity to the internal carotid artery. The authors postulated, on the basis of intraoperative observations, that the infraorbital nerve (ION) is a useful surgical landmark for navigating this region; therefore, they studied the anatomy of the ION and its relationships to critical neurovascular structures and the maxillary nerve (V2) encountered in ETMAs.
Endoscopic anatomical dissections were performed bilaterally in 5 silicone-injected, formalin-fixed cadaveric heads (10 sides). Endonasal transmaxillary and direct transmaxillary (Caldwell-Luc) approaches were performed, and anatomical correlations were analyzed and documented. Stereotactic imaging of each specimen was performed to correlate landmarks and enable precise measurement of each segment.
The ION was readily identified in the roof of the maxillary sinus at the beginning of the surgical procedure in all specimens. Anatomical dissections of the ION and the maxillary branch of the trigeminal nerve (V2) to the cavernous sinus suggested that the ION/V2 complex has 4 distinct segments that may have implications in endoscopic approaches: 1) Segment I, the cutaneous segment of the ION and its terminal branches (5–11 branches) to the face, distal to the infraorbital foramen; 2) Segment II, the orbitomaxillary segment of the ION within the infraorbital canal from the infraorbital foramen along the infraorbital groove (length 12 ± 3.2 mm); 3) Segment III, the pterygopalatine segment within the pterygopalatine fossa, which starts at the infraorbital groove to the foramen rotundum (13 ± 2.5 mm); and 4) Segment IV, the cavernous segment from the foramen rotundum to the trigeminal ganglion (15 ± 4.1 mm), which passes in the lateral wall of the cavernous sinus. The relationship of the ION/V2 complex to the contents of the cavernous sinus, carotid artery, and pterygopalatine fossa is described in the text.
The ION/V2 complex is an easily identifiable and potentially useful surgical landmark to the foramen rotundum, cavernous sinus, carotid artery, pterygopalatine fossa, and anterolateral skull base during ETMAs.