Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: Journal of Anatomy
A thorough knowledge of the gross and micro-anatomy of the human internal acoustic canal (IAC) is essential in vestibular schwannoma removal, cochlear implantation (CI) surgery, vestibular nerve section, and decompression procedures. Here, we analyzed the acoustic-facial cistern of the human IAC, including nerves and anastomoses using synchrotron phase contrast imaging (SR-PCI). A total of 26 fresh human temporal bones underwent SR-PCI. Data were processed using volume-rendering software to create three-dimensional (3D) reconstructions allowing soft tissue analyses, orthogonal sectioning, and cropping. A scalar opacity mapping tool was used to enhance tissue surface borders, and anatomical structures were color-labeled for improved 3D comprehension of the soft tissues. SR-PCI reproduced, for the first time, the variable 3D anatomy of the human IAC, including cranial nerve complexes, anastomoses, and arachnoid membrane invagination (acoustic-facial cistern; an extension of the cerebellopontine cistern) in unprocessed, un-decalcified specimens. An unrecognized system of arachnoid pillars and trabeculae was found to extend between the arachnoid and cranial nerves. We confirmed earlier findings that intra-meatal vestibular schwannoma may grow unseparated from adjacent nerves without duplication of the arachnoid layers. The arachnoid pillars may support and stabilize cranial nerves in the IAC and could also play a role in local fluid hydrodynamics. © 2018 The Authors. Journal of Anatomy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Anatomical Society.