Three vascular routes to the inner ear are known: (a) through the internal acoustic meatus with the vestibulocochlear nerve; (b) from the endolymphatic duct aperture; and (c) along the canal of Cotugno (CC) inserted into the vestibular part of the ear from the superior or brain side. The third is believed to contain only veins. Examinations of 33 human embryos and fetuses at 6–40 weeks demonstrated that (a) the CC appeared as a recess of epidural mesenchymal tissues at the superior aspect of the otic capsule cartilage in embryos and it was inserted deeply to issue multiple peripheral divisions inferolaterally and posteriorly at midterm; (b) the CC consistently passed through a ring of the superior or anterior semicircular canal and contained both, the arteries from the vestibulocochlear nerve origin at the midbrain and the vein draining into the sigmoid sinus or petrosal sinuses; and (c) the CC appeared not to contribute to ossification of the otic capsule cartilage but, after endochondral ossification of the internal ear, woven bone development occurred along a smooth interface of the CC with the ossified ear. In contrast, another interface between the developing bone and the residual cartilage of the otic capsule was rough and wavy with many short bony columns, called osseous globules. In addition, the endolymphatic duct accompanied veins but no arteries. Our results show that the CC is a major vascular route to the vestibular part of the otic capsule cartilage, but its role appears to be limited after ossification.
- canal of Cotugno
- human fetus
- superior semicircular canal
- vascular routes of the internal ear
- vestibulocochlear nerve