Background: There exists some ambiguity regarding the exact anatomical limits of the orbicularis retaining ligament, particularly its medial boundary in both the superior and inferior orbits. Precise understanding of this anatomy is necessary during periorbital rejuvenation.
Methods: Sixteen fresh hemifacial cadaver dissections were performed in the anatomy laboratory to evaluate the anatomy of the orbicularis retaining ligament. Dissection was assisted by magnification with loupes and the operating microscope.
Results: A ligamentous system was found that arises from the inferior and superior orbital rim that is truly periorbital. This ligament spans the entire circumference of the orbit from the medial to the lateral canthus. There exists a fusion line between the orbital septum and the orbicularis retaining ligament in the superior orbit, indistinguishable from the arcus marginalis of the inferior orbital rim. Laterally, the orbicularis retaining ligament contributes to the lateral canthal ligament, consistent with previous studies. No contribution to the medial canthus was identified in this study.
Conclusions: The orbicularis retaining ligament is a true, circumferential "periorbital" structure. This ligament may serve two purposes: (1) to act as a fixation point for the orbicularis muscle of the upper and lower eyelids and (2) to protect the ocular globe. With techniques of periorbital injection with fillers and botulinum toxin becoming ever more popular, understanding the orbicularis retaining ligament's function as a partitioning membrane is mandatory for avoiding ocular complications. As a support structure, examples are shown of how manipulation of this ligament may benefit canthopexy, septal reset, and brow-lift procedures as described by Hoxworth.