The Exterior of the Skull

The skull as a whole may be viewed from different points, and the views so obtained are termed the normæ of the skull; thus, it may be examined from above (norma verticalis), from below (norma basalis), from the side (norma lateralis), from behind (norma occipitalis), or from the front (norma frontalis).

Norma Verticalis.—When viewed from above the outline presented varies greatly in different skulls; in some it is more or less oval, in others more nearly circular. The surface is traversed by three sutures, viz.: (1) the coronal sutures, nearly transverse is direction, between the frontal and parietals; (2) the sagittal sutures, medially placed, between the parietal bones, and deeply serrated in its anterior two-thirds; and (3) the upper part of the lambdoidal suture, between the parietals and the occipital. The point of junction of the sagittal and coronal suture is named the bregma, that of the sagittal and lambdoid sutures, the lambda; they indicate respectively the positions of the anterior and posterior fontanelles in the fetal skull. On either side of the sagittal suture are the parietal eminence and parietal foramen—the latter, however, is frequently absent on one or both sides.

The skull is often somewhat flattened in the neighborhood of the parietal foramina, and the term obelion is applied to that point of the sagittal suture which is on a level with the foramina. In front is the glabella, and on its lateral aspects are the superciliary arches, and above these the frontal eminences. Immediately above the glabella may be seen the remains of the frontal suture; in a small percentage of skulls this suture persists and extends along the middle line to the bregma. Passing backward and upward from the zygomatic processes of the frontal bone are the temporal lines, which mark the upper limits of the temporal fossæ. The zygomatic arches may or may not be seen projecting beyond the anterior portions of these lines.
FIG. 187– Base of skull. Inferior surface.

Norma Basalis (Fig. 187).—The inferior surface of the base of the skull, exclusive of the mandible, is bounded in front by the incisor teeth in the maxillæ; behind, by the superior nuchal lines of the occipital; and laterally by the alveolar arch, the lower border of the zygomatic bone, the zygomatic arch and an imaginary line extending from it to the mastoid process and extremity of the superior nuchal line of the occipital. It is formed by the palatine processes of the maxillæ and palatine bones, the vomer, the pterygoid processes, the under surfaces of the great wings, spinous processes, and part of the body of the sphenoid, the under surfaces of the squamæ and mastoid and petrous portions of the temporals, and the under surface of the occipital bone. The anterior part or hard palate projects below the level of the rest of the surface, and is bounded in front and laterally by the alveolar arch containing the sixteen teeth of the maxillæ. Immediately behind the incisor teeth is the incisive foramen.

In this foramen are two lateral apertures, the openings of the incisive canals (foramina of Stenson) which transmit the anterior branches of the descending palatine vessels, and the nasopalatine nerves. Occasionally two additional canals are present in the incisive foramen; they are termed the foramina of Scarpa and are situated in the middle line; when present they transmit the nasopalatine nerves. The vault of the hard palate is concave, uneven, perforated by numerous foramina, marked by depressions for the palatine glands, and traversed by a crucial suture formed by the junction of the four bones of which it is composed. In the young skull a suture may be seen extending on either side from the incisive foramen to the interval between the lateral incisor and canine teeth, and marking off the os incisivum or premaxillary bone. At either posterior angle of the hard palate is the greater palatine foramen, for the transmission of the descending palatine vessels and anterior palatine nerve; and running forward and medialward from it a groove, for the same vessels and nerve.

Behind the posterior palatine foramen is the pyramidal process of the palatine bone, perforated by one or more lesser palatine foramina, and marked by the commencement of a transverse ridge, for the attachment of the tendinous expansion of the Tensor veli palatini. Projecting backward from the center of the posterior border of the hard palate is the posterior nasal spine, for the attachment of the Musculus uvulæ. Behind and above the hard palate are the choanæ, measuring about 2.5 cm. in their vertical and 1.25 cm. in their transverse diameters. They are separated from one another by the vomer, and each is bounded above by the body of the sphenoid, below by the horizontal part of the palatine bone, and laterally by the medial pterygoid plate of the sphenoid. At the superior border of the vomer may be seen the expanded alæ of this bone, receiving between them the rostrum of the sphenoid. Near the lateral margins of the alæ of the vomer, at the roots of the pterygoid processes, are the pharyngeal canals. The pterygoid process presents near its base the pterygoid canal, for the transmission of a nerve and artery. The medial pterygoid plate is long and narrow; on the lateral side of its base is the scaphoid fossa, for the origin of the Tensor veli palatini, and at its lower extremity the hamulus, around which the tendon of this muscle turns. The lateral pterygoid plate is broad; its lateral surface forms the medial boundary of the infratemporal fossa, and affords attachment to the Pterygoideus externus.

Behind the nasal cavities is the basilar portion of the occipital bone, presenting near its center the pharyngeal tubercle for the attachment of the fibrous raphé of the pharynx, with depressions on either side for the insertions of the Rectus capitis anterior and Longus capitis. At the base of the lateral pterygoid plate is the foramen ovale, for the transmission of the mandibular nerve, the accessory meningeal artery, and sometimes the lesser superficial petrosal nerve; behind this are the foramen spinosum which transmits the middle meningeal vessels, and the prominent spina angularis (sphenoidal spine), which gives attachment to the sphenomandibular ligament and the Tensor veli palatini. Lateral to the spina angularis is the mandibular fossa, divided into two parts by the petrotympanic fissure; the anterior portion, concave, smooth bounded in front by the articular tubercle, serves for the articulation of the condyle of the mandible; the posterior portion, rough and bounded behind by the tympanic part of the temporal, is sometimes occupied by a part of the parotid gland.

Emerging from between the laminæ of the vaginal process of the tympanic part is the styloid process; and at the base of this process is the stylomastoid foramen, for the exit of the facial nerve, and entrance of the stylomastoid artery. Lateral to the stylomastoid foramen, between the tympanic part and the mastoid process, is the tympanomastoid fissure, for the auricular branch of the vagus. Upon the medial side of the mastoid process is the mastoid notch for the posterior belly of the Digastricus, and medial to the notch, the occipital groove for the occipital artery. At the base of the medial pterygoid plate is a large and somewhat triangular aperture, the foramen lacerum, bounded in front by the great wing of the sphenoid, behind by the apex of the petrous portion of the temporal bone, and medially by the body of the sphenoid and basilar portion of the occipital bone; it presents in front the posterior orifice of the pterygoid canal; behind, the aperture of the carotid canal.

The lower part of this opening is filled up in the fresh state by a fibrocartilaginous plate, across the upper or cerebral surface of which the internal carotid artery passes. Lateral to this aperture is a groove, the sulcus tubæ auditivæ, between the petrous part of the temporal and the great wing of the sphenoid. This sulcus is directed lateralward and backward from the root of the medial pterygoid plate and lodges the cartilaginous part of the auditory tube; it is continuous behind with the canal in the temporal bone which forms the bony part of the same tube. 

At the bottom of this sulcus is a narrow cleft, the petrosphenoidal fissure, which is occupied, in the fresh condition, by a plate of cartilage. Behind this fissure is the under surface of the petrous portion of the temporal bone, presenting, near its apex, the quadrilateral rough surface, part of which affords attachment to the Levator veli palatini; lateral to this surface is the orifice of the carotid canal, and medial to it, the depression leading to the aquæductus cochleæ, the former transmitting the internal carotid artery and the carotid plexus of the sympathetic, the latter serving for the passage of a vein from the cochlea. Behind the carotid canal is the jugular foramen, a large aperture, formed in front by the petrous portion of the temporal, and behind by the occipital; it is generally larger on the right than on the left side, and may be subdivided into three compartments. The anterior compartment transmits the inferior petrosal sinus; the intermediate, the glossopharyngeal, vagus, and accessory nerves; the posterior, the transverse sinus and some meningeal branches from the occipital and ascending pharyngeal arteries.

On the ridge of bone dividing the carotid canal from the jugular foramen is the inferior tympanic canaliculus for the transmission of the tympanic branch of the glossopharyngeal nerve; and on the wall of the jugular foramen, near the root of the styloid process, is the mastoid canaliculus for the passage of the auricular branch of the vagus nerve. Extending forward from the jugular foramen to the foramen lacerum is the petroöccipital fissure occupied, in the fresh state, by a plate of cartilage. Behind the basilar portion of the occipital bone is the foramen magnum, bounded laterally by the occipital condyles, the medial sides of which are rough for the attachment of the alar ligaments. 

Lateral to each condyle is the jugular process which gives attachment to the Rectus capitis lateralis muscle and the lateral atlantoöccipital ligament. The foramen magnum transmits the medulla oblongata and its membranes, the accessory nerves, the vertebral arteries, the anterior and posterior spinal arteries, and the ligaments connecting the occipital bone with the axis. The mid-points on the anterior and posterior margins of the foramen magnum are respectively termed the basion and the opisthion. In front of each condyle is the canal for the passage of the hypoglossal nerve and a meningeal artery. Behind each condyle is the condyloid fossa, perforated on one or both sides by the condyloid canal, for the transmission of a vein from the transverse sinus.

FIG. 188– Side view of the skull.

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