Anatomical variations and relationships of the infratemporal fossa: Foundation of a novel endonasal approach to the foramen ovale

Lifeng Li, Nyall R. London, Daniel M. Prevedello, Ricardo L. Carrau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective Access to the infratemporal fossa (ITF) is complicated by its complex neurovascular relationships. In addition, copious bleeding from the pterygoid plexus adds to surgical challenge. This study aims to detail the anatomical relationships among the internal maxillary artery (IMA), pterygoid plexus, V 3, and pterygoid muscles in ITF. Furthermore, it introduces a novel approach that displaces the lateral pterygoid plate (LPP) to access the foramen ovale. Design and Main Outcome Measures Six cadaveric specimens (12 sides) were dissected using an endonasal approach to the ITF modified by releasing and displacing the LPP and lateral pterygoid muscle (LPTM) as a unit. Subperiosteal elevation of the superior head of LPTM revealed the foramen ovale. The anatomic relationships among the V 3, pterygoid muscles, pterygoid plexus, and IMA were surveyed. Results In 9/12 sides (75%), the proximal IMA ran between the temporalis and the LPTM, whereas in 3/12 sides (25%), the IMA pierced the LPTM. The deep temporal nerve was a consistent landmark to separate the superior and inferior heads of LPTM. An endonasal approach displacing the LPP in combination with a subperiosteal elevation of the superior head of LPTM provided access to the posterior trunk of V 3 and foramen ovale while sparing injury of the LPTM and exposing the pterygoid plexus. The anterior trunk of V 3 traveled anterolaterally along the greater wing of sphenoid in all specimens. Conclusion Displacement of the LPP and LPTM provided direct exposure of foramen ovale and V 3 avoiding dissection of the muscle and pterygoid plexus; thus, this maneuver may prevent intraoperative bleeding and postoperative trismus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Neurological Surgery, Part B: Skull Base
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Foramen ovale
  • Infratemporal fossa
  • Internal maxillary artery
  • Lateral pterygoid plate
  • V

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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