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Original Article
July 1, 2004

A Simple Method for Safe Identification of the Facial Nerve Using Palpable Landmarks

Arch Surg. 2004;139(7):745-747. doi:10.1001/archsurg.139.7.745

Hypothesis  External palpable landmarks can be used to identify the facial nerve trunk quickly and safely.

Design  Prospective anatomical dissection study.

Setting  University department of human anatomy and university hospital.

Methods  A total of 40 human cadaver heads (79 facial nerves) were dissected by 2 prosectors, a surgeon with experience in the anatomy of the parotid region (J.A.P.; n = 39) and a medical student with experience in anatomical dissection and basic knowledge of the facial nerve disposition (A.M.; n = 40). A 3-cm skin incision was made in the center of the triangle formed by the temporomandibular joint, the mastoid process, and the angle of the mandible, and dissection was continued deep until the main facial nerve trunk was identified.

Main Outcome Measures  The time taken from the skin incision to the identification of the nerve was monitored with a chronometer by an independent observer. The distance between the predicted and actual position of the facial nerve was measured.

Results  In all cases, the facial nerve was identified and there were no significant differences in the dissection time between the 2 prosectors (144 vs 148 seconds). The mean distance between the predicted and the actual position of the nerve was 1.42 mm.

Conclusion  The proposed localization landmarks allowed a fast and safe identification of the facial nerve and may be of significant help during surgery around the parotid region.