Skull Base Foramina Imaging Anatomy

In this video, Dr. Bailey reviews the most important things you should know about the skull base anatomy with an emphasis on CT imaging.   With this quick video, in just a few minutes you can learn about the most important skull base foramina when reviewing CT.


Optic canal. Contains the optic nerve, optic sheath, and ophthalmic artery.

Superior orbital fissure. Multiple cranial nerves to the orbit (III, IV, V1, and VI) as well as the superior ophthalmic vein.

Inferior orbital fissure. Contains the infraorbital artery, nerve, and vein. It’s a little harder to identify because it is smaller and more inferior.

Pterygopalatine fossa (PPF) and foramen rotundum. The PPF is a fat containing structure which contains the V2 segment of the trigeminal nerve. The foramen rotundum carries the V2 segment through the wall of the sphenoid sinus into the PPF.

Foramen ovale. Contains the mandibular nerve (V3), the accessory meningeal artery, the lesser petrosal nerve, and an emissary vein connecting the cavernous sinus to the pterygoid plexus.

Foramen spinosum. Contains the middle meningeal artery and vein and an meningeal branch of the mandibular nerve. It is the smaller foramen lateral to the foramen ovale.

Vidian canal. Contains the vidian nerve, artery and vein. It is best seen on coronal along the inferior margin of the sphenoid sinus at the level of the pterygoid plates.

Hypoglossal canal. Contains the hypoglossal canal. Best seen on the axial medial to the jugular foramen. Can also be seen on the coronal below the beak of the “eagle” sometimes described.

Foramen magnum. A large opening in the occipital bone containing the brain stem and upper spinal cord, vertebral arteries.

Check out more of our content on head and neck imaging by seeing all H&N related posts or on the H&N Imaging Topic page.


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