Systematic Review of Ossicular Chain Anatomy: Strategic Planning for Development of Novel Middle Ear Prostheses

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Abstract

Objective

To systematically review the anatomy of the ossicular chain.

Data Sources

Google Scholar, PubMed, and otologic textbooks.

Review Methods

A systematic literature search was performed on January 26, 2015. Search terms used to discover articles consisted of combinations of 2 keywords. One keyword from both groups was used: [ossicular, ossicle, malleus, incus, stapes] and [morphology, morphometric, anatomy, variation, physiology], yielding more than 50,000 hits. Articles were then screened by title and abstract if they did not contain information relevant to human ossicular chain anatomy. In addition to this search, references of selected articles were studied as well as suggested relevant articles from publication databases. Standard otologic textbooks were screened using the search criteria.

Results

Thirty-three sources were selected for use in this review. From these studies, data on the composition, physiology, morphology, and morphometrics were acquired. In addition, any correlations or lack of correlations between features of the ossicular chain and other features of the ossicular chain or patient were noted, with bilateral symmetry between ossicles being the only important correlation reported.

Conclusion

There was significant variation in all dimensions of each ossicle between individuals, given that degree of variation, custom fitting, or custom manufacturing of prostheses for each patient could optimize prosthesis fit. From published data, an accurate 3-dimensional model of the malleus, incus, and stapes can be created, which can then be further modified for each patient’s individual anatomy.

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