Background: The auriculotemporal nerve has been identified as one of the peripheral trigger sites for migraine headaches. However, its distal course is poorly mapped following emergence from the parotid gland. In addition, a reliable anatomical landmark for locating the potential compression points along the course of the nerve during surgery has not been sufficiently described.
Methods: Twenty hemifaces on 10 fresh cadavers were dissected to trace the course of the auriculotemporal nerve from the inferior border of the zygomatic arch to its termination in the temporal scalp. The compression points were mapped and the distances were measured from the most anterosuperior point of the external auditory meatus, which was used as a fixed anatomical landmark.
Results: Three potential compression points along the course of the auriculotemporal nerve were identified. Compression points 1 and 2 corresponded to preauricular fascial bands. Compression point 1 was centered 13.1 ± 5.9 mm anterior and 5.0 ± 7.0 mm superior to the most anterosuperior point of the external auditory meatus, whereas compression point 2 was centered at 11.9 ± 6.0 mm anterior and 17.2 ± 10.4 mm superior to the most anterosuperior point of the external auditory meatus. A significant relationship was found between the auriculotemporal nerve and superficial temporal artery (compression point 3) in 80 percent of hemifaces, with three patterns of interaction: a single site of artery crossing over the nerve (62.5 percent), a helical intertwining relationship (18.8 percent), and nerve crossing over the artery (18.8 percent).
Conclusion: Findings from this cadaver study provide information relevant to the operative localization of potential compression points along the auriculotemporal nerve.