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Superior and inferior orbital fissures: want to learn more about it?

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Superior and inferior orbital fissures

Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify the location of the superior and inferior orbital fissures.
  2. Name the structures that pass through each of the fissures.

Watch a video

The superior and inferior orbital fissures are clefts inside the bony orbit. They are located between the lesser and greater wings of the sphenoid bone, and the sphenoid bone and the maxilla respectively.

The orbit and the middle cranial fossa communicate via the superior orbital fissure, while the inferior orbital fissure connects the pterygopalatine fossa to the bony orbit. Several important neurovascular structures pass through the superior and inferior orbital fissures.

The following video will provide you with an overview of the structure and contents of the superior and inferior orbital fissures.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the video, test your acquired knowledge with our quiz.

Take our custom quiz about the orbit and contents, and choose the topics or individual terms that you want to be tested on.

Browse atlas

The following gallery will give you an overview of the musculoskeletal components of the superior and inferior orbital fissures:

Explore this gallery to learn more about the contents of the superior orbital fissure and the optic canal:

The following gallery will provide you with an overview of the contents of the inferior orbital fissure:


Key points about the superior and inferior orbital fissures
Definition Clefts inside the bony orbit
Location and function Superior orbital fissure:
Between lesser and greater wings of sphenoid bone, superolateral to optic canal, connects orbit and medial cranial fossa

Inferior orbital fissure:

Between sphenoid bone and maxilla, inferolateral to optic canal, connects pterygopalatine fossa to bony orbit
Neurovascular contents Superior orbital fissure:
acrimal and frontal nerve (branches of CN V1), trochlear nerve, superior ophthalmic vein, inferior and superior branches of oculomotor nerve, nasociliary nerve (branch of CN V1), abducens nerve, and superior branch of inferior ophthalmic vein


Inferior orbital fissure:

nferior branch of inferior ophthalmic vein, orbital branches of pterygopalatine ganglion, infraorbital nerve (branch of CN V2), infraorbital artery and vein, and zygomatic nerve (branch of CN V2)

Mnemonic: ZOIII

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To continue building your knowledge, work through the study units on the bones, blood vessels, and nerves of the orbit:

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