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What Is the Lobular Branch of the Great Auricular Nerve? Anatomical Description and Significance in Rhytidectomy

Sharma, Vicki S. B.S.; Stephens, Robert E. Ph.D.; Wright, Barth W. Ph.D.; Surek, Christopher C. D.O.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: February 2017 - Volume 139 - Issue 2 - p 371e–378e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000002980
Cosmetic: Original Articles
Cover Article

Background: Current literature suggests that preserving the lobular branch of the great auricular nerve has greater impact on sensory function of the auricle than preservation of the posterior branch during rhytidectomy. However, no methodology exists to efficiently and accurately determine the topographic location of the lobular branch. This study describes the branching characteristics of the lobular branch and algorithmic surface markings to assist surgeons in preservation of the great auricular nerve during rhytidectomy flap elevation.

Methods: The lobular branch was dissected in 50 cadaveric necks. Measurements were taken from the lobular branch to conchal cartilage, tragus, and antitragus. The anterior branch was measured to its superficial musculoaponeurotic system insertion, and the posterior branch was measured to the mastoid process. The McKinney point was marked and the great auricular nerve diameter was recorded. Branching pattern and location of branches within the Ozturk 30-degree angle were documented. Basic statistics were performed.

Results: The lobular branch was present in all specimens and distributed to three regions. In 85 percent of specimens, the lobular branch resided directly inferior to the antitragus; in the remaining specimens, it was located directly inferior to the tragus. Preoperative markings consisting of two vertical lines from the tragus and antitragus to the McKinney point can be used to outline the predicted location of the lobular branch.

Conclusions: This study delineates the location of the lobular branch of the great auricular nerve. The authors translate these findings into a quick and simple intraoperative marking, which can assist surgeons in avoiding lobular branch injury during rhytidectomy dissection.

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Kansas City, Mo.; and Kansas City, Kan.

From the Division of Anatomy, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences; and the Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Kansas Medical Center.

Received for publication April 28, 2016; accepted September 14, 2016.

Disclosure: The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article.

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Vicki S. Sharma, B.S., 1750 Independence Avenue, Kansas City, Mo. 64106,

©2017American Society of Plastic Surgeons