The Human Cochlear Aqueduct and Accessory Canals: a Micro-CT Analysis Using a 3D Reconstruction Paradigm

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Objective:We sought to study the anatomic variations of the cochlear aqueduct and its accessory canals in human temporal bones using micro-CT and a 3D reconstruction paradigm. More knowledge about the anatomic variations of these structures, particularly at the basal turn of the cochlea and round window niche, may be important to better preserve residual hearing as well as the neural supply during cochlear implant surgery.Methods:An archival collection of 30 human temporal bones underwent micro-CT and 3D reconstruction. A surface enhancement paradigm was applied. The application displays reconstructed slices as a 3D object with realistic 3D visualization of scanned objects. Virtual sectioning or “cropping” of the petrous bone presented subsequent areas. Thereby, the bony canals could be followed from inside the basal turn of cochlea and middle ear to the jugular foramen.Results:The cochlear aqueduct was always paralleled by an accessory canal containing the inferior cochlear vein. It ran from the basal turn of the cochlea and exited laterally in the jugular foramen. In 70% of the cases, a secondary accessory canal was observed and it derived mostly from a depression or infundibulum located in the floor of the round window niche. This canal also exited in the jugular foramen. The secondary accessory canal occasionally anastomosed with the primary accessory canal suggesting that it contains a vein that drains middle ear blood to the cranial sinus.Conclusion:Micro-CT with 3D surface reconstruction paradigm offers new possibilities to study the topographic anatomy of minor details in the human inner ear. The technique creates simulated transparent “castings” of the labyrinth with a coinciding surface view through enhancement of contrast between boundaries. Accessory canals that drain blood from the cochlea, spiral ganglion, and middle ear could be characterized three-dimensionally.

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