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OBJECTIVE: To define the arterial supply to the facial nerve that crosses the floor of the middle cranial fossa.METHODS: Twenty-five middle fossae from adult cadaveric-injected specimens were examined under 3 to 40x magnification.RESULTS: The petrosal branch of the middle meningeal artery is the sole source of supply that crossed the floor of the middle fossa to irrigate the facial nerve. The petrosal artery usually arises from the first 10-mm segment of the middle meningeal artery after it passes through the foramen spinosum, but it can arise within or just below the foramen spinosum. The petrosal artery is commonly partially or completely hidden in the bone below the middle fossa floor. It most commonly reaches the facial nerve by passing through the bone enclosing the geniculate ganglion and tympanic segment of the nerve and less commonly by passing through the hiatus of the greater petrosal nerve. The petrosal artery frequently gives rise to a branch to the trigeminal nerve. The middle meningeal artery was absent in one of the 25 middle fossae, and a petrosal artery could not be identified in four middle fossae. The petrosal arteries were divided into three types based on their pattern of supply to the facial nerve.CONCLUSION: The petrosal artery is at risk of being damaged during procedures in which the dura is elevated from the floor of the middle fossa, the middle fossa floor is drilled, or the middle meningeal artery is embolized or sacrificed. Several recommendations are offered to avoid damaging the facial nerve supply while performing such interventions.
View details for PubMedID 18596507