Chorda tympani

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 15 Feb 2024

The chorda tympani is a nerve that arises from the mastoid segment of the facial nerve, carrying afferent special sensation from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue via the lingual nerve, as well as efferent parasympathetic secretomotor innervation to the submandibular and sublingual glands.

Gross anatomy

After branching off from the facial nerve, the chorda tympani courses through the temporal bone before joining the lingual nerve 2:

  • branch from mastoid segment of facial nerve: the branching site can be variable from either the proximal, mid- or distal mastoid segment of facial nerve; occasionally the chorda tympani can even branch off from the facial nerve after exiting the stylomastoid foramen

  • posterior canaliculus: after originating, the chorda tympani courses superiorly back into the tympanic cavity to the level of the manubrium/neck of malleus. The distance of ascent is variable, depending on the initial branching pattern from the mastoid segment of facial nerve

  • tympanic segment is the segment of chorda tympani as it traverses the middle ear cavity between the malleus and incus in a posteroanterior direction; not visible with current imaging techniques

  • anterior canaliculus: at the anterior wall of the tympanic cavity, it enters petrotympanic fissure before finally exiting the temporal bone

  • the chorda tympani exits the petrotympanic fissure medial to to the temporomandibular joint, within the infratemporal fossa. It then travels inferiorly to join the lingual nerve approximately 2 cm below the skull base

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: connections between CN V and CN VII
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  • Figure 2: labeled CT
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  • Figure 3: geniculate ganglion
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  • Figure 4: inner and middle ear anatomy
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  • Case 1
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