Dehiscence or thinning of bone overlying the superior semicircular canal in a temporal bone survey

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000 Feb;126(2):137-47. doi: 10.1001/archotol.126.2.137.


Objective: To determine the incidence and etiology of dehiscences of bone overlying the superior semicircular canal in a temporal bone archive.

Design: A microscopic study was performed of 1000 temporal bones from 596 adults in a university hospital registry. Specimens were sectioned vertically in the plane of the superior semicircular canal. Measurements of minimum bone thickness over the superior canal were made in a subset of 108 randomly chosen specimens. All bones were examined for thinning or dehiscence relative to these norms. Clinical histories, when available, were reviewed.

Results: Complete dehiscence of the superior canal was identified in 5 specimens (0.5%), at the middle fossa floor (n = 1) and where the superior petrosal sinus was in contact with the canal (n = 4). In 14 other specimens (1.4%), the bone at the middle fossa floor (n = 8) or superior petrosal sinus (n = 6) was no thicker than 0.1 mm, significantly less than values measured in the control specimens (P<.001). Abnormalities were typically bilateral. Specimens from infants demonstrated uniformly thin bone over the superior canal in the middle fossa at birth, with gradual thickening until 3 years of age.

Conclusions: Dehiscence of bone overlying the superior canal occurred in approximately 0.5% of temporal bone specimens (0.7% of individuals). In an additional 1.4% of specimens (1.3% of individuals), the bone was markedly thin (< or =0.1 mm), such that it might appear dehiscent even on ultra-high-resolution computed tomography of the temporal bone. Sites affected were in the middle fossa floor or a deep groove for the superior petrosal sinus, often bilaterally. These abnormalities may arise from failure of postnatal bone development. Thin areas of bone over the superior canal may be predisposed to disruption by trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Semicircular Canals / pathology*
  • Temporal Bone / pathology*