Internal cranial base

Cranial fossae: Anatomy & Contents. Internal cranial baseKey facts about the anatomy of the anterior, middle and posterior cranial fossae
~ 3 min

If we took a horizontal section of the cranium, in particular the inferior part and looked at it from above, we would see the internal surface of the cranial base (basis cranii interna).

The internal surface of the cranial base consists of three so-called cranial fossae:

  • Anterior cranial fossa (fossa cranii anterior), which is limited from behind by the lesser wings and the tuberculum sellae of the sphenoid bone

    Anterior cranial fossa (fossa cranii anterior)
    Anterior cranial fossa (fossa cranii anterior)
  • Middle cranial fossa (fossa cranii media)

    Middle cranial fossa (fossa cranii media)
    Middle cranial fossa (fossa cranii media)
  • Posterior cranial fossa (fossa cranii posterior), which is bordered from behind by the superior border of the petrous part of the temporal bone and the dorsum sellae.

Posterior cranial fossa (fossa cranii posterior)
Posterior cranial fossa (fossa cranii posterior)

On the internal surface of the cranial base, we can see numerous foramina and fissures, through which vessels and nerves pass. Let us examine them in more detail.

TitleContents
Anterior cranial fossa
Cribriform foramina
(foramina cribrosa)
Anterior ethmoidal artery, ethmoidal veins, olfactory nerve
Cribriform foramina (foramina cribrosa)
Cribriform foramina (foramina cribrosa)
Foramen caecum
(foramen caecum)
None
Foramen caecum (foramen caecum)
Foramen caecum (foramen caecum)
Middle cranial fossa
Optic canal
(canalis opticus)
Optic nerve
Optic canal (canalis opticus)
Optic canal (canalis opticus)
Superior orbital fissure
(fissura orbitalis superior)
Anterior meningeal branch of the anterior ethmoidal artery, superior ophthalmic vein, oculomotor nerve, trochlear nerve, abducent nerve, ophthalmic nerve
Superior orbital fissure (fissura orbitalis superior)
Superior orbital fissure (fissura orbitalis superior)
Internal opening of carotid canal
(canalis caroticus)
Internal carotid artery, internal carotid venous plexus, internal carotid sympathetic plexus
Carotid canal (canalis caroticus)
Carotid canal (canalis caroticus)
Foramen rotundum
(foramen rotundum)
Maxillary nerve
Foramen rotundum (foramen rotundum)
Foramen rotundum (foramen rotundum)
Foramen ovale
(foramen ovale)
Meningeal branch of the middle meningeal artery, emissary vein, mandibular nerve
Foramen ovale (foramen ovale)
Foramen ovale (foramen ovale)
Foramen spinosum
(foramen spinosum)
Middle meningeal artery and veins, meningeal branch of the mandibular nerve
Foramen spinosum (foramen spinosum)
Foramen spinosum (foramen spinosum)
Hiatus for greater petrosal nerve
(hiatus canalis nervi petrosi majoris)
Greater petrosal nerve, petrosal branch of the middle meningeal artery, auditory vein
Hiatus for greater petrosal nerve (hiatus canalis nervi petrosi majoris)
Hiatus for greater petrosal nerve (hiatus canalis nervi petrosi majoris)
Hiatus for lesser petrosal nerve
(hiatus canalis nervi petrosi minoris)
Lesser petrosal nerve, superior tympanic artery
Hiatus for lesser petrosal nerve (hiatus canalis nervi petrosi minoris)
Hiatus for lesser petrosal nerve (hiatus canalis nervi petrosi minoris)
Foramen lacerum
(foramen lacerum)
Internal carotid artery, artery of pterygoid canal, emissary veins, nerve of pterygoid canal
Foramen lacerum (foramen lacerum)
Foramen lacerum (foramen lacerum)
Posterior cranial fossa
Internal acoustic meatus
(meatus acusticus internus)
Labyrinthine artery and veins, facial nerve, Vestibulocochlear nerve
Internal acoustic meatus (meatus acusticus internus)
Internal acoustic meatus (meatus acusticus internus)
Mastoid foramen
(foramen mastoideum)
Meningeal branch of the occipital artery, mastoid emissary vein
Mastoid foramen (foramen mastoideum)
Mastoid foramen (foramen mastoideum)
Jugular foramen
(foramen jugulare)
Internal jugular vein, posterior meningeal artery, glossopharyngeal nerve, vagus nerve, accessory nerve, meningeal branch of vagus nerve
Jugular foramen (foramen jugulare)
Jugular foramen (foramen jugulare)
Foramen magnum
(foramen magnum)
Vertebral arteries, anterior and posterior spinal arteries, basilar venous plexus, myelencephalon
Foramen magnum (foramen magnum)
Foramen magnum (foramen magnum)
Condylar canal
(canalis condylaris)
Condylar emissary vein
Condylar canal (canalis condylaris)
Condylar canal (canalis condylaris)
Hypoglossal canal
(canalis nervi hypoglossi)
Hypoglossal nerve
Hypoglossal canal (canalis nervi hypoglossi)
Hypoglossal canal (canalis nervi hypoglossi)
Opening of cochlear canaliculus
(canaliculus cochleae)
Ductus perilymphaticus, vein of cochlear canal
Cochlear canaliculus (canaliculus cochleae)
Cochlear canaliculus (canaliculus cochleae)
Opening of vestibular aqueduct
(aqueductus vestibuli)
Endolymphatic duct
Vestibular aqueduct (aqueductus vestibuli)
Vestibular aqueduct (aqueductus vestibuli)
Dictionary

Cranial fossae

internal surface of cranial base
basis cranii interna
anterior cranial fossa
fossa cranii anterior
middle cranial fossa
fossa cranii media
posterior cranial fossa
fossa cranii posterior
cribriform foramina
foramina cribrosa
foramen caecum
foramen caecum
optic canal
canalis opticus
superior orbital fissure
fissura orbitalis superior
carotid canal
canalis caroticus
foramen rotundum
foramen rotundum
foramen ovale
foramen ovale
foramen spinosum
foramen spinosum
hiatus for greater petrosal nerve
hiatus canalis nervi petrosi majoris
hiatus for lesser petrosal nerve
hiatus canalis nervi petrosi minoris
foramen lacerum
foramen lacerum
internal acoustic meatus
meatus acusticus internus
mastoid foramen
foramen mastoideum
jugular foramen
foramen jugulare
foramen magnum
foramen magnum
condylar canal
canalis condylaris
hypoglossal canal
canalis nervi hypoglossi
cochlear canaliculus
canaliculus cochleae
vestibular aqueduct
aqueductus vestibuli
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