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Cranial fossae

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Describe the three cranial fossae, their borders and bones that comprise them.
  2. Identify all the foramina, canals, sulci and other structures seen on the base of the skull.
  3. Name all of the neurovascular structures that traverse the openings on the skull base

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The base of the skull, or the cranial floor, is the inferior wall of the cranial cavity. It comprises parts of the frontal, sphenoid, temporal, and occipital bones. These bones form the three cranial fossae: anterior, middle and posterior.

The cranial fossae include many openings that are traversed by nerves, arteries and veins travelling between the brain and the neck. This video tutorial will explain everything you need to know about the cranial fossae.

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Browse atlas

Analyze all these landmarks in detail with our atlas gallery:


Key points about the base of the skull
Anterior cranial fossa Bones: Orbital surface of frontal bone, lesser wing of sphenoid bone, cribriform plate of ethmoid bone
Anterior ethmoidal foramen, cribriform foramina, sphenoidal yoke, foramen caecum, frontal crest
Frontal lobe of cerebrum, olfactory bulb, olfactory tract
Middle cranial fossa Bones: Body and greater wings of sphenoid bone, squama and anterior surface of petrous part of temporal bone
Chiasmatic sulcus, tuberculum sellae, anterior clinoid process, sella turcica, middle clinoid process, carotid sulcus, foramen lacerum, foramen spinosum, superior orbital fissure, foramen rotundum, foramen ovale, trigeminal impression, internal opening of carotid canal
Temporal lobe of cerebrum, pituitary gland
Posterior cranial fossa Bones: Posterior surface of petrous part of temporal bone, occipital bone
Clivus, foramen magnum, internal acoustic meatus, jugular foramen, hypoglossal canal
Brainstem, cerebellum

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