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World J Otorhinolaryngol. Nov 28, 2014; 4(4): 17-22
Published online Nov 28, 2014. doi: 10.5319/wjo.v4.i4.17
Clinical anatomy of the tympanic nerve: A review
Todd Kanzara, Andy Hall, Jagdeep Singh Virk, Billy Leung, Arvind Singh
Todd Kanzara, Department of Surgery, Lister Hospital, Coreys Mill Lane, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 4AB, United Kingdom
Andy Hall, Arvind Singh, Department of ENT, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 3UJ, United Kingdom
Jagdeep Singh Virk, Department of ENT, Queens Hospital, Romford RM7 0AG, United Kingdom
Billy Leung, Department of Anatomy, Kings College, Guys Campus, London SE1 4XA, United Kingdom
Author contributions: Kanzara T, Hall A, Virk JS, Leung B and Singh A all contributed equally to this review; Kanzara T and Hall A conceptualised, designed and drafted the manuscript; Virk JS and Leung B assisted with data acquisition, literature search and analysis; Singh A provided senior supervision data analysis and made critical revisions; all authors reviewed and approved the final manuscript as submitted.
Correspondence to: Dr. Todd Kanzara, Department of Surgery, Lister Hospital, Coreys Mill Lane, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 4AB, United Kingdom.
Telephone: +44-779-6945100 Fax: +44-170-7224373
Received: July 7, 2014
Revised: August 7, 2014
Accepted: September 4, 2014
Published online: November 28, 2014

The tympanic (Jacobson’s) nerve is a useful anatomical structure in the middle ear with both practical and physiological functions extending beyond its origin. The paper reviews its clinical anatomy in adults and its surgical significance. English language articles from 5 major databases and Google scholar search engine were used to identify papers outlining the anatomy of the tympanic nerve, associated pathology and surgical relevance. In the majority of cases the tympanic nerve arises from the inferior ganglion of the glossopharyngeal nerve traversing through the tympanic canaliculus into the middle ear. On the promontory it coalesces with sympathetic fibres from the carotid chain forming the tympanic plexus which has individual variability. Functionally, as well as giving off parasympathetic fibres to the parotid gland via the lesser petrosal nerve, it is a useful anatomical landmark for cochlear implantation. The surgical importance of the tympanic nerve is not only restricted to middle ear surgery; it also extends to salivary gland disorders. The tympanic nerve remains clinically relevant to the modern otolaryngologist and as such a detailed understanding of its anatomy is crucial.

Keywords: Tympanic nerve, Canaliculus, Glossopharyngeal nerve, Promontory

Core tip: The tympanic nerve is the first branch arising from the inferior ganglion of the glossopharyngeal nerve. Despite its modest size it has a multitude of functions which are not only limited to the middle ear. In this review we detail the clinical anatomy of the tympanic nerve and its surgical applications in Otolaryngology as they have evolved over the years. We also provide a brief summary of the life and achievements of the indefatigable Ludwig Levin Jacobson, an anatomist and military surgeon, who is credited with the discovery of the tympanic nerve.