Traditionally, otologists have aimed to produce a clean, dry, safe ear with the best possible hearing result. More recently, "less invasively" has been added to this list of goals. The development of small-diameter, high-quality rigid endoscopes and high-definition video systems has made totally endoscopic, transcanal surgery a reality in adult otology and a possibility in pediatric otology. This article reviews the anatomy of the pediatric middle ear and its surrounding airspaces and structures based on the work of dozens of researchers over the past 50 years. It will focus on the developmental changes in ear anatomy from birth through the first decade, when structure and function change most rapidly. Understanding the limits and possibilities afforded by new endoscopic technologies, the pediatric otologist can strive for results matching or exceeding those achieved by more invasive surgical approaches.
Keywords: anatomy; cholesteatoma; chronic otitis media; development; endoscopy; middle ear surgery; minimally invasive surgery; pediatric otology; temporal bone histology.