Hypoglossal canal

A.Prof Frank Gaillard et al.

The hypoglossal canal is located between the occipital condyle and jugular tubercle and runs obliquely forwards (posteromedial to anterolateral) allowing the hypoglossal nerve (12th cranial nerve) to exit the posterior cranial fossa

Its proximal portion is often divided by a fibrous (sometimes ossified) septum, which separates the two roots of the hypoglossal nerve (these have formed by the convergence of numerous rootlets). These roots merge within the canal and a single nerve emerges.

Cross-sectional anatomy

The hypoglossal canal is most easily identified on axial or coronal images through the occipital condyles, where it can be seen passing anterolaterally from the posterior fossa into the upper neck. 

On coronal imaging, the jugular tubercle appears beak-like extending over the hypoglossal canal. Combined with occipital condyle the coronal appearance is reminiscent of an eagle seen in profile, making this a convenient landmark 3,4

Variant anatomy

Head and neck anatomy
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Article information

rID: 1481
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

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Cases and figures

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    Figure 1: coronal CT
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    Figure 2: MRI anatomy
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    Figure 3: inferior view
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    Skull base inferi...
    Figure 4: inferior view
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