The pterygopalatine fossa: an anatomic report

J Craniofac Surg. 2007 May;18(3):586-90. doi: 10.1097/scs.0b013e31805343c2.


The pterygopalatine fossa (PPF) is a small anatomic region of particular interest in cranial base surgery. Infectious diseases and malignancy may spread through the PPF to contiguous areas as a result of the low resistance offered by the numerous foramina and fissures that surrounds the fossa. We present an anatomic report on the PPF. Twelve sides of six fixed cadaveric heads were dissected through a LeFort I maxillary osteotomy with transantral exposure of the neurovascular content of the PPF. Arterial vascular patterns of the maxillary artery were observed. The pterygopalatine fossa is a deeply located small anatomic region with a rich neurovascular content. The third portion of the maxillary artery in the PPF may demonstrate a variable vascular morphology. A correct understanding and knowledge of the anatomic structures lodged into the PPF, as well as their relationships and functions, remain crucial to minimizing postsurgical morbidity and intraoperative complications.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Cadaver
  • Cranial Fossa, Anterior / anatomy & histology
  • Cranial Fossa, Middle / anatomy & histology
  • Ganglia, Parasympathetic / anatomy & histology
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Maxilla / surgery
  • Maxillary Artery / anatomy & histology
  • Maxillary Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Orbit / blood supply
  • Orbit / innervation
  • Osteotomy, Le Fort
  • Palate, Hard / anatomy & histology*
  • Palate, Hard / blood supply
  • Palate, Hard / innervation
  • Sphenoid Bone / anatomy & histology*
  • Sphenoid Bone / blood supply
  • Sphenoid Bone / innervation