This study examines the anatomic relationships and variability of the facial nerve trunk and its branches, with emphasis on the intraparotid connections between the divisions. Microdissections were performed on 30 Korean half-heads, and the facial nerve trunks and branches were exposed. The average depth of the stylomastoid foramen from the skin surface was 21.0 ± 3.1 mm, and the distance between the stylomastoid foramen and the bifurcation of the temporofacial (upper) and cervicofacial (lower) divisions was 13.0 ± 2.8 mm. In 26 of 30 dissections (86.7%), the facial nerve trunk bifurcated into two main divisions, and a trifurcation pattern was seen in the other four cases (13.3%). According to the origin of the buccal branches, we classified the branching patterns of the facial nerve into four categories. In type I (13.8% of cases), the buccal branches arose from the two main divisions of the trunk but not from other branches of the facial nerve. In type II (44.8% of cases), the buccal branches arising from the two main divisions were interconnected with the zygomatic branch. In type III (17.3% of cases), the marginal mandibular branch sent nerve twigs to the buccal branch, which originated from the upper and lower divisions. In type IV (17.3% of cases), the nerve twigs from the zygomatic and marginal mandibular branches merged to the buccal branch arising from the two main divisions. Communications between the facial and auriculotemporal nerve branches, which are known as "communicating auriculotemporal nerves," were observed in 28 of the 30 cases (93.3%). Familiarity with these common variations in the facial anatomy provides useful information for the surgeon in careful dissection, preservation of the facial nerve, and complete removal of the tumors in parotidectomies.
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Acknoweldgements This study was supported by a grant from the Korean Health 21 R and D Project, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Republic of Korea (02-PJ1-PG1-CH07-0001). The authors would also like to express their appreciation of Ms. Seung-Hye Kim, a student at the Dental College of Yonsei University, for reviewing this article.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging