Surgical anatomy and pathology of the middle ear

J Anat. 2016 Feb;228(2):338-53. doi: 10.1111/joa.12389. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


Middle ear surgery is strongly influenced by anatomical and functional characteristics of the middle ear. The complex anatomy means a challenge for the otosurgeon who moves between preservation or improvement of highly important functions (hearing, balance, facial motion) and eradication of diseases. Of these, perforations of the tympanic membrane, chronic otitis media, tympanosclerosis and cholesteatoma are encountered most often in clinical practice. Modern techniques for reconstruction of the ossicular chain aim for best possible hearing improvement using delicate alloplastic titanium prostheses, but a number of prosthesis-unrelated factors work against this intent. Surgery is always individualized to the case and there is no one-fits-all strategy. Above all, both middle ear diseases and surgery can be associated with a number of complications; the most important ones being hearing deterioration or deafness, dizziness, facial palsy and life-threatening intracranial complications. To minimize risks, a solid knowledge of and respect for neurootologic structures is essential for an otosurgeon who must train him- or herself intensively on temporal bones before performing surgery on a patient.

Keywords: Surgical anatomy; facial nerve; middle ear; otitis media; tympanic membrane.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ear Diseases / pathology
  • Ear Diseases / surgery*
  • Ear, Middle* / abnormalities
  • Ear, Middle* / anatomy & histology
  • Ear, Middle* / surgery
  • Hearing Loss / surgery
  • Humans