Arnold's nerve

Last revised by Frank Gaillard on 17 Mar 2022

Arnold's nerve, also known as the auricular branch or mastoid branch, of the vagus nerve (CN X) is a small sensory nerve supplying the skin of the external acoustic meatus. 

Arnold's nerve originates from the superior ganglion of the vagus nerve and also has a small contribution from the inferior ganglion of the glossopharyngeal nerve. It ascends through the mastoid canaliculus (located lateral to the jugular fossa) in the mastoid portion of the temporal bone

Arnold's nerve innervates the small parts of the external acoustic meatus and is the source of glomus jugulotympanicum paraganglioma from the non-chromaffin paraganglion cells, which are found along the nerve.

It is also responsible for the referred otalgia through the vagus nerve (CN X), in the case of laryngeal pathology.

Named after Philipp Friedrich Arnold, German anatomist (1803-1890) 1,3. Also known as the alderman's nerve on the belief that stimulating the external auditory canal will stimulate gastric emptying; the aldermen who ate too much for lunch would wiggle their fingers in the external canal to relieve their epigastric discomfort.

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: diagram showing Arnold's nerve
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