Structures passing through foramina of skull

The internal surface of the cranial base can be divided into 3 cranial fossae, the anterior, middle, and posterior. The anterior and middle fossae are separated by the lesser wing of sphenoid bone, and the middle and posterior fossae are separated by petrous part of temporal bone.

Various structures (nerves, arteries, veins) passing through various foramina of skull are listed below:

Foramen Ovale:

Mnemonic: MALE
1. Mandibular Nerve (CN V3)
2. Accessory meningeal nerve
3. Lesser petrosal nerve
4. Emissary vein (Cavernous sinus to pterygoid plexus)
5. Occasionally anterior trunk of middle meningeal artery

Foramen Spinosum

Mnemonic: MEN
1. Middle meningeal artery and vein (posterior trunk)
2. Emissay vein
3. Nervus spinosus (Meningeal branch of mandibular nerve)

Foramen Lacerum:

Mnemonic: MEIG
Structures passing whole length:
1. Meningeal branch of Ascending pharyngeal artery
2. Emissary vein

Other structures partially traversing:
3. Internal carotid artery
4. Greater petrosal nerve

Carotid Canal:

Internal carotid artery (ICA) and venous and sympathetic plexus around it

Foramen Rotundum:

Maxillary nerve (CN V2)

Stylomastoid Foramen:

1. Facial nerve (CN VII)
2. Posterior Auricular artery (Stylomastoid branch)

Internal Acoustic Meatus:

1. Facial nerve (CN VII)
2. Vestibulo-cochlear nerve (CN VIII)
3. Nerves intermedius or pars intermedia of wrisberg
4. Labyrinthe vessels

Hypoglossal canal:

1. Hypoglossal nerve
2. Meningeal branch of Hypoglossal nerve
3. Meningeal branch of Ascending Pharyngeal artery
4. Emissary vein (Sigmoid sinus to internal jugular vein)

Jugular Foramen:

1. Anterior part: Inferior Petrosal Sinus

2. Middle part: 9,10,11 MAP
a. CN IX (Glossopharyngeal nerve)
b. CN X (Vagus nerve)
c. CN XI (Accesory nerve)
d. Meningeal branch of Ascending Pharyngeal Artery

3. Posterior part:
a. Internal Jugular vein (IJV) – Sigmoid sinus junction
b. Emissary vein (Sigmoid sinus to occipital vein)
c. Occipital artery

Mastoid canaliculus (entry) and Tympanomastoid fissure (exit):

Auricular branch of vagus nerve

Tympanic Canaliculus

Tympanic branch of CN IX (Glossopharyngeal nerve)

Incisive Foramen

1. Greater palatine vessels
2. Nasopalatine nerves

Greater Palatine Foramen:

Mnemonic: GAP (Greater and Anterior Palatine Vessels)
1. Greater Palatine vessels
2. Anterior Palatine vessels

Lesser Palatine Foramen:

Middle and Posterior Palatine nerve

Superior Orbital Fissure

1. Lacrimal nerve
2. Frontal nerve
3. Trochlear nerve
4. Occulomotor nerve
5. Nasociliary nerve
6. Abducent nerve
7. Superior ophthalmic vein

Foramen magnum

Mnemonic: MAVer
1. Medulla oblongata
2. Ascending parts of spinal accessory nerves
3. Vertebral arteries

About the Author

Sulabh Shrestha
Intern doctor and Medical Blogger Sulabh Shrestha

2 Comments on "Structures passing through foramina of skull"

  1. very useful.searched everywhere for this information.thank you so much.

  2. Re: jugular foramen.
    Depending which text you read (or exam you sit), it does NOT transmit the IJV. It does however transmit the sigmoid sinus and inf petrosal sinus. This is if you’re sitting for the Part 1 RACS Australasia.

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