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Great auricular nerve: want to learn more about it?

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Great auricular nerve

Great auricular nerve
Great auricular nerve

The great auricular nerve is a superficial nerve of the neck that arises from the cervical plexus. It arises from the ventral rami of spinal nerves C2 and C3, and is the largest ascending branch of the cervical plexus.

Along its course, the great auricular nerve emerges on the posterior border of the sternocleidomastoid muscle at the Erb’s point, which is the site where all cutaneous branches of the cervical plexus converge and become superficial. The great auricular nerve supplies the skin of the auricle, as well as the area overlying the parotid gland and mastoid process.

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the great auricular nerve.

Key facts about the great auricular nerve
Origin Cervical plexus (C2, C3)
Branches Anterior branch of great auricular nerve, posterior branch of great auricular nerve
Supply Skin of the auricle, skin over the parotid gland and mastoid process

Origin and course

The great auricular nerve is the largest ascending branch of cervical plexus, arising from the ventral rami of C2 and C3. The nerve arises just behind the middle portion of the sternocleidomastoid muscle and shortly thereafter curves around its posterior border and emerges on the muscle’s anterior surface. Here, the great auricular nerve perforates the deep cervical fascia and takes an ascending course, passing under the platysma muscle along the external jugular vein. As it reaches the parotid gland, the great auricular nerve divides into its terminal branches.

The Erb’s point, or punctum nervosum, is the site where all the cutaneous branches of the cervical plexus converge, pierce the deep cervical fascia and become superficial. Aside from the great auricular nerve, these branches also include lesser occipital, transverse cervical and supraclavicular.

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Branches and innervation

The great auricular nerve gives off two terminal branches:

  • The anterior branch, also called the facial branch, which innervates the skin over the parotid gland. This branch immerses into the substance of the parotid gland, where it establishes a connection with the facial nerve.
  • The posterior branch, also called the mastoid branch, which supplies the skin over the mastoid process and the posterior surface of the auricle. This branch gives off a small lateral filament, which supplies the lobule and concha. Along its course, the posterior branch communicates with the lesser occipital nerve, the auricular branch of vagus nerve (CN X) and the auricular branch of posterior auricular nerve.

Learn more about the great auricular nerve here.

Great auricular nerve: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

What do you prefer to learn with?

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

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