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Anatomy Atlases: Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus II: Cardiovascular System: Arteries: Head, Neck, and Thorax: Opthalmic, Hyaloid, and Lacrymal Arteries

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus II: Cardiovascular System: Arteries: Head, Neck, and Thorax

Ophthalmic, Hyaloid, and Lacrimal Arteries

Ronald A. Bergman, PhD
Adel K. Afifi, MD, MS
Ryosuke Miyauchi, MD

Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed


In a series of 170 specimens, the ophthalmic artery arose from the internal carotid in 164 cases. In four cases it arose from the internal carotid and middle meningeal artery through an enlargement of the normal anastomosis between the orbital branch of the middle meningeal and recurrent meningeal branch of the lacrimal branch.

This artery occasionally arises from the posterior communicating artery (circle of Willis), or from the middle cerebral when the internal carotid is absent.

The middle meningeal artery may arise from the ophthalmic instead of from the maxillary artery.

The ophthalmic artery may enter the orbit via a bony canal separate from the optic canal (found in eight of 170 specimens). In these rare cases , the term "double optic foramen" has been applied.

In some cases, the artery enters the orbit through the most medial part of the superior orbital fissure.

In a study of 56 specimens, the artery's origin was found to be inferior and medial to the optic nerve in 23 cases, under the center of the nerve in 21 cases, inferior and lateral to the nerve in nine cases, lateral to the nerve in one case, under the medial border of the nerve in one case, and medial to the nerve in one case.

Heuston reporting on a specimen of his that the foramen spinosum was absent on the left side and very small on the right side, through which a minute artery passed. The place of the middle meningeal artery was taken on both sides by a branch of the ophthalmic artery, which, having its origin within the orbit, passed through the superior and external (lateral) angle of the sphenoidal fissure, to be distributed as would a normal middle meningeal artery.

The ophthalmic artery may be associated with the development of a branch of the lacrimal artery that passes through the sphenoidal fissure to anastomose with the middle meningeal artery. This branch may be large, forming the main stem of the lacrimal artery. This connection with the ophthalmic sometimes disappears entirely. The entire ophthalmic system of arteries occasionally arises from the frontal branch of the middle meningeal artery.

The supraorbital branch of the ophthalmic may arise from the lacrimal branch of the ophthalmic artery.

The lacrimal may be reinforced by the anterior deep temporal artery.

The ophthalmic artery sometimes (15% of cases) crosses beneath, instead of over, the optic nerve, and it may then, in its intracranial course, lie medial to the nerve.

All of the varieties of the ophthalmic artery described above may be explained as resulting from the enlargement of normal anastomotic vessels, the regular trunk being more or less diminished or even obliterated. The origin of the branches of the ophthalmic artery is subject to great variation. There are for example, one or two extra ciliary branches and the supraorbital and posterior ethmoidal that are inconstant. The nasal branch is sometimes large and supplies a deficiency of the facial artery.

The hyaloid artery is the terminal branch of the primitive ophthalmic artery, which forms in the embryo an extensive ramification in the primitive vitreous humor and a vascular tunic around the lens. This embryonic artery atrophies by the 8 1/2 month but a few persistent remnants are evident entoptically as muscae volitantes (an appearance as of moving spots before the eyes). This artery may persist postnatally. The hyaloid artery lies in the hyaloid canal, or canal of Cloquet, and is a branch of the central artery of the retina, or one of its retinal distribution.

The communicating branch of the middle meningeal artery may join the lacrimal artery and replace the entire ophthalmic artery in about 2% of individuals according to Singh and Dass (1960) (cited by Lang, 1983). In about 1 % of cases (Jazuta, 1905 cited by Lang, 1983) the entire lacrimal artery arises from the frontal branch of the middle meningeal artery, Not infrequently, a branch from the anastomotic region of the ophthalmic artery runs backward through the superior orbital fissure and takes part in the blood supply of nerves, bone, and dura in the cavernous sinus (Lang, 1983).

According to Singh and Dass (1960) in 96% of subjects the ophthalmic artery arises from the internal carotid artery. In 4% the chief supplier to the ophthalmic artery is the middle meningeal artery.

Mayer (1887) reported that the ophthalmic artery ran above the superior oblique muscle in one dissection (Lang, 1983)

In 83% of the bodies examined by Hayreh and Dass (1962) the ophthalmic artery arose in the subdural space. In lang's material it had the same origin in 46.7% of cases (Eigle, 1975). Its origin was situated in the cavernous sinus in 7.5% (Hayreh and Dass) and in 18.3% (Lang, 1983). After leaving the cavernous sinus in 6.5% (Hayreh and Dass and in 33.3% (Lang) and more common on the right. The ophthalmic artery may arise at the pointwhere the internal carotid pierces the dura mater Hayreh and Dass. In 53.6% the ophthalmic artery arises from the anteromedial aspect of the internal carotid, in 37.5% from the superomedial aspect, and in 7.1 % from the medial aspect and 1.8% from the anterosuperior aspect (Hayreh and Dass).

Image 90, Image 299, Image 300, Image 515

Image 149

Origin of, Ophthalmic

Image 386

Central, of Retina

Image 80, Image 298, Image 516, See Image 299, See Image 300


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