Although the inferior petro-occipital vein has been recently used for vascular access to the cavernous sinus, few detailed descriptions of its anatomy are in the literature. We aimed to investigate the morphology and relationships of this vessel. Twelve latex-injected cadaveric heads (24 sides) were dissected to identify the inferior petro-occipital vein and anatomic details documented. The petro-occipital vein was identified on 83.3% of sides. Generally this vein united the internal carotid venous plexus to the superior jugular bulb. However, on 10% of sides, the anterior part of this vein communicated directly with the cavernous sinus, and on 15%, the posterior vein drained into the inferior petrosal sinus at its termination into the superior jugular bulb. The petro-occipital vein was separated from the overlying inferior petrosal sinus by a thin plate of bone. On 40% of sides, small venous connections were found between these two venous structures. The vein was usually larger if a nondominant transverse sinus was present. The overlying inferior petrosal sinus was smaller in diameter when an underlying inferior petro-occipital vein was present. On 20% of sides, the posterior aspect of the vein communicated with the hypoglossal canal veins. On three sides, diploic veins from the clivus drained into the inferior petro-occipital vein. The inferior petro-occipital vein is present in most humans. This primarily extracranial vessel communicates with intracranial venous sinuses and should be considered an emissary vein. Knowledge of this vessel's exact anatomy may be useful to cranial base surgeons and endovascular specialists.
- skull base
ASJC Scopus subject areas