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Ostiomeatal complex

Recommended video: Lateral wall of nasal cavity [15:43]
Bones, cartilages and mucosa with a focus on the lateral wall of the nasal cavity.

The ostiomeatal complex (OMC) is the collection of structures that aids in mucus drainage and airflow between the maxillary sinus, the anterior ethmoid air cells, and the frontal sinus. It is located on the lateral wall of the nasal cavity and has several well defined borders. The OMC contains several important landmarks, such as the ethmoid bulla, hiatus semilunaris, ethmoidal infundibulum, frontonasal duct (recess) and uncinate process. 

This article will evaluate the boundaries, composition and anatomical variations of the ostiomeatal complex.

Key facts about the ostiomeatal complex
Location On the lateral wall of the nasal cavity, deep to the middle concha
Communications Anterior ethmoid air cells, maxillary sinus, frontal sinus and middle meatus
Boundaries Anterior: Agger nasi, atrium of middle meatus
Superior: Basal lamella
Posterior: Middle turbinate
Floor: Inferior concha
Medial: Middle concha
Lateral: Lamina papyracea of the ethmoid sinuses
Function Mucus drainage and airflow from the maxillary sinus, anterior ethmoid air cells, and frontal sinus into the middle nasal concha.
  1. Relation of the OMC with the paranasal sinuses
  2. Boundaries
  3. Composition
  4. Anatomical variations
    1. Concha bullosa
    2. Uncinate process deviation
    3. Septal deviation
  5. Sources
+ Show all

Relation of the OMC with the paranasal sinuses

The paranasal sinuses assist with several mechanical and physiological functions. These include:

  • humidifying the inspired air.
  • Lightening the skull.
  • Regulating intranasal pressure.
  • Enhancing olfaction.
  • Adding resonance to the voice.

Additionally, it has been postulated that the sinuses produce mucus that is free of environmental contaminants. This mucus is then secreted into the superior and middle meatus in order to mitigate the contamination present in the mucus that is in contact with the air and its contaminants.

These functions would be compromised in instances where the paranasal sinuses are filled with fluid and are unable to be drained. The anterior paranasal sinuses (anterior ethmoid air cells, maxillary, and frontal) drain their contents by way of the ostiomeatal complex (unit). This cluster of ostia and their corresponding drainage channels are located on the lateral wall of the nasal cavity, deep to the middle concha. Contents of the anterior paranasal sinuses that enter the ostiomeatal complex will subsequently drain into the middle meatus before traveling into the nasopharynx.


When the middle concha is reflected superiorly, the borders and components can be more readily appreciated.

  • Anteriorly, the unit is in open communication with the anterior nasal cavity. The agger nasi and atrium of the middle meatus also have an anterosuperior, and anterior (respectively) relations to the complex.
  • Superiorly, the ostiomeatal complex (OMC) is limited by the basal lamella. The basal lamella is a thin piece of lamina papyracea that attaches the middle turbinate (concha) to the lateral wall of the nasal cavity.
  • Posteriorly, The basal lamella continues along the length of the middle turbinate and consequently forms the posterior border of the space.
  • Inferiorly, the ostiomeatal unit has an open communication with the middle meatus. The drained contents of the unit will travel in the meatus along with the superior border of the inferior concha, which forms the floor of the middle meatus.
  • Medially, the complex is limited by the body of the middle concha. Laterally, the lamina papyracea of the ethmoid sinuses borders the complex.

For more details about the drainage of the paranasal sinuses via the ostiomeatal complex, take a look below:


The most striking feature of the ostiomeatal complex is the laterally protruding structure spanning the middle third of the middle concha, called the bulla ethmoidalis (ethmoid bulla). The convexed bulge is created by the presence of the middle ethmoidal air cells and as a result, it contains an ostium that drains this space.

Located anteroinferiorly to the ethmoid bulla, and posterior to the uncinate process is a curved furrow called the hiatus semilunaris. It contains the maxillary ostium and an accessory maxillary ostium towards the inferior aspect of the groove and the ostia of the anterior ethmoidal air cells anteriorly.

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This groove is continuous with the ethmoidal infundibulum, which courses superiorly and deep to the anterior aspect of the middle concha and lateral to the orbital plate of the ethmoid bone. The frontal sinus is, therefore, able to communicate with and drain its contents into the ostiomeatal complex because of the connection between its frontonasal duct (recess) and the ethmoidal infundibulum.

The uncinate process, which forms the anterior and medial limitation of the hiatus semilunaris and the ethmoidal infundibulum (respectively), is a thin, crescent-shaped, bony leaflet that emerges from the ethmoidal labyrinth posteroinferiorly.

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