A histological study of scala communis with radiological implications

Audiol Neurootol. 2010;15(6):383-93. doi: 10.1159/000307345. Epub 2010 Apr 10.


Objectives: Scala communis or interscalar septum (IS) defect is a developmental abnormality of the inner ear characterized by a dehiscence in the partition separating the turns of the cochlea. The goals of the present study were to (1) study this anomaly and describe its characteristics compared to control ears using a histological analysis of temporal bones, (2) discuss radiological implications regarding its diagnosis, and (3) describe its embryological derivation.

Methods: Out of 1775 temporal bones assessed, 22 specimens were found to have scala communis in cochleae containing all 3 turns (basal, middle and apical). These 22 ears were studied in detail by qualitative and quantitative methods using light microscopy.

Results: Scala communis occurred as an isolated inner ear anomaly, or in association with other congenital cochlear and/or vestibular anomalies. The defect occurred most often between the middle and apical turns of the cochlea. Compared to control ears, scala communis ears were found to have a smaller modiolar area (p < 0.0001) and flattening of the interscalar ridge (point of attachment of the IS to the inner lumen of the cochlea; p < 0.0001). Scala communis was compatible with normal hearing.

Conclusions: Flattening of the interscalar ridge has the potential to improve the diagnosis of scala communis in patients using CT scanning. The anomaly may result from a mesodermal defect such as excessive resorption of mesenchyme during the formation of the scalae, an error in the formation of bone, or both.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Ear, Inner / abnormalities*
  • Ear, Inner / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • ROC Curve
  • Radiography
  • Temporal Bone / abnormalities*
  • Temporal Bone / diagnostic imaging*