The Temporal Branch of the Facial Nerve: How Reliably Can We Predict Its Path?

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A thorough examination of the temporal branch of the facial nerve was performed to characterize precisely the number of rami crossing the zygomatic arch and their location with respect to bone and soft-tissue landmarks. Fresh cadaver dissection was performed in 12 facial halves, dissecting the facial nerve superiorly from the stylomastoid foramen to identify all branches crossing the zygomatic arch. There were a median of three (range two to four) rami of the temporal branch crossing the lower aspect of the zygomatic arch, with distinct anterior and posterior divisions identified in each dissection. In 8 of the 12 dissections. one or more separate middle divisions of the nerve also were seen at the inferior aspect of the zygomatic arch. Superior to the zygomatic arch, frequent interconnections were noted between all divisions of the temporal branch, but no connections were noted to other branches of the facial nerve. Previous descriptions of the course of the temporal branch based on soft-tissue landmarks most closely correlated with nerve rami that were found in the present study to be located within the anterior division of the nerve. On crossing the inferior aspect of the zygomatic arch, the anterior and middle divisions of the temporal branch were located a median of 12 and 4 mm anterior to the articular eminence, respectively; the posterior division ranged in location from 10 mm posterior to 7 mm anterior to the articular eminence. The range over which rami of the temporal branch crossed the inferior aspect of the zygomatic arch was equally divided anterior and posterior to the articular eminence and covered up to 50 percent of the total length of the zygomatic arch. The present study confirms that the temporal branch is not a single nerve branch but consists of multiple rami that cross the zygomatic arch anywhere for over half the length of its inferior border. Techniques for localizing the nerve based on reference points from two soft-tissue landmarks are therefore unreliable.

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