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Maxillary nerve (CN V2)

Learning objectives

On completing this study unit, you will be able to:

  1. Describe the origin of the maxillary nerve and its associated nuclei.
  2. Understand the pathway and course of the maxillary nerve.
  3. Identify the branches of the maxillary nerve and supply areas.

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The trigeminal nerve (CN V) is a mixed cranial nerve, providing sensory innervation to the skin, mucosa and paranasal sinues of the face and motor innervation to the muscles of mastication. The main trunk of this nerve arises from the pons as its sensory root and quickly expands into the trigeminal ganglion which trigeminal divides into three branches: the ophthalmic (V1), maxillary (V2) and mandibular nerves (V3).  

The maxillary nerve emerges from the anterior portion of the trigeminal ganglion and like its origin, is exclusively composed of general somatic afferent (sensory) fibers. It passes through the lateral wall of the cavernous sinus and foramen rotundum to enter the pterygopalatine fossa.  Here, it gives rise to the majority of its branches before extending through the inferior orbital fissure where it gives rise to its terminal branch, the infraorbital nerve. Through its intricate pathway the maxillary nerve provides the major sensory innervation to the skin of the lower eyelid, the prominence of the cheek, part of the temporal region, alar part of the nose, and upper lip. 

Find out more about the pathway, branches and function of the maxillary nerve by watching the video below.

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Browse atlas

Explore the branches of the maxillary nerve in the galleries below.


Key points about the maxillary nerve
Structure and features Fibers: General somatic afferent (GSA)
: Trigeminal ganglion
Exits skull
: Foramen rotundum
Associated nuclei
: Sensory nuclei (mesencephalic, principal sensory, spinal nuclei of trigeminal nerve) and motor nucleus of trigeminal nerve
Associated ganglia
: Trigeminal ganglion, pterygopalatine ganglion
Branches Directly from maxillary nerve:
Meningeal branch, branches of the maxillary nerve to pterygopalatine ganglion, zygomatic nerve, posterior superior alveolar nerve, infraorbital nerve

Associated with pterygopalatine ganglion
Orbital branches, posterior superior nasal branches, nasopalatine nerve, pharyngeal nerve, greater palatine nerve, lesser palatine nerves
Function Sensory innervation of skin of lower eyelid, prominence of the cheek, part of the temporal region, alar part of the nose and upper lip

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