OBJECTIVES: Hypothesized causes of vestibular neuritis/labyrinthitis include neuroinflammatory or vascular disorders, yet vascular disorders of the inner ear are poorly understood. Guided by known microvascular diseases of the retina, we developed 2 hypotheses: (1) there exist vascular vulnerabilities of artery channels in cases of hypothetical nerve swelling for the superior, inferior, and vestibulocochlear artery and (2) there are arteriovenous crossings that could compromise vascular flow in disease states.
METHODS: Two fully mounted and stained temporal bones were used to render three-dimensional reconstructions of the labyrinth blood supply. Using these maps, areas of potential vascular compression were quantified in 50 human temporal bones.
RESULTS: Although inner ear arteries and veins mostly travel within their own bony channels, they may be exposed (1) at the entrance into the otic capsule, and (2) where the superior vestibular vein crosses the inferior vestibular artery. At the entry into the otic capsule, the ratio of the soft tissue to total space for the superior vestibular artery was significantly greater than the inferior vestibular artery/cochleovestibular artery (median 44, interquartile range 34-55 vs. 14 [9-17], p < 0.0001).
CONCLUSIONS: Three-dimensional reconstruction of human temporal bone histopathology can guide vascular studies of the human inner ear. Studies of retinal microvascular disease helped identify areas of vascular vulnerability in cases of hypothetical nerve swelling at the entrance into the otic capsule and at an arteriovenous crossing near the saccular macula. These data may help explain patterns of clinical findings in peripheral vestibular lesions.
- Labyrinth Diseases
- Temporal Bone/pathology
- Vestibule, Labyrinth/pathology