Microsurgical anatomy of the facial nerve trunk

K. Salame, G. E.R. Ouaknine, B. Arensburg, S. Rochkind

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dissection and manipulation of the facial nerve (FN) trunk between its exit from the cranial base through the stylomastoid foramen (SMF) and its bifurcation is a critical step in various otologic, plastic and neurosurgical procedures. This study demonstrates the anatomical relationships and variability of the FN trunk with emphasis on some important morphometric data, particularly with relevance to hypoglossal-facial nerve anastomosis (HFA). Bilateral microsurgical dissection was performed on twenty-three human cadavers fixed with formalin. The whole trunk of the FN was exposed, its diameter at the SMF and its length were measured, its branches were observed and the site of its bifurcation was determined. Anastomotic connections with other nerves and blood supply of the trunk were studied. The FN invariably emerged from the cranial base through the SMF. Its diameter upon its emergence from the foramen was 2.66 ± 0.55 mm. Two branches consistently originated from the trunk: the posterior auricular nerve and the nerve to the digastric muscle. Less consistent were the communicating branch with the glossopharyngeal nerve and the nerve to the stylohyoid muscle. The bifurcation of the FN occurred before its penetration into the parotid gland in 15% of cases and within the gland in 85%. The length of the FN trunk was 16.44 ± 3.2 mm. Anastomoses between the FN and other nerves were observed in one-third of the dissections. The blood supply to the FN trunk was provided by the stylomastoid artery that was identified in 91% of cases. Understanding the microsurgical anatomy of the FN trunk is essential for performing any surgical procedure in the relevant region. Surgical implications of this study are presented with emphasis on HFA surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-99
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Facial nerve
  • Hypoglossal facial anastomosis
  • Surgical anatomy


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