Developmental Disruptions of the Human Stapes

Otol Neurotol. 2022 Apr 1;43(4):e461-e466. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000003490.


Objective: To evaluate and classify developmental malformations of the human stapes.

Methods: Twenty-five temporal bone specimens from 18 patients with congenital stapes malformations were identified in the Mass Eye and Ear temporal bone collection. Serial sections stained with hematoxylin and eosin were examined by light microscopy and the morphology of the stapes was compared to age-matched controls.

Results: Each case of stapes malformation could be classified into one of four malformation types based on our current understanding of the embryologic origin of the subunits of the stapes and timing of development. Twenty-seven percent of stapes malformations had a Type I morphology characterized by a hypoplastic or absent inner footplate and hypoplastic to absent mesoderm footplate or oval window. The crura and capitulum may be absent, monopodal or dysmorphic. Eleven percent expressed a Type II malformation with dysmorphic or monopodal capitulum and crura and a fixed footplate. Twenty-seven percent were of Type III with a dysmorphic or monopodal capitulum and or crura. The footplate, and thereby oval window is present and without fixation. The most common malformation, Type IV, was isolated footplate fixation observed in 33% of cases.

Conclusions: Malformations of the human stapes follow consistent patterns of early or late disruptions of the stapes subunits of mesodermal and/or neural crest origin. While the molecular events, including temporal coordination, that lead to a normally formed stapes are not yet fully understood, the observed patterns of human stapes malformation can be consistently classified into one of four patterns of developmental disruption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Ear Ossicles / abnormalities
  • Ear, Middle / abnormalities
  • Humans
  • Ossicular Prosthesis*
  • Stapes / abnormalities
  • Stapes Surgery*