A distinct nerve innervating the external auditory canal can often be identified in close relation to the facial nerve when gradually thinning the posterior canal wall. This nerve has been attributed to coughing during cerumen removal, neuralgic pain, Hitselberger's sign and vesicular eruptions described in Ramsay Hunt's syndrome. This study aimed to demonstrate the origin and clinical impact of this nerve.
In patients with intractable otalgia or severe coughing whilst inserting a hearing aid, who responded temporarily to local anaesthesia, the symptoms could be resolved by sectioning a sensory branch to the posterior canal. In a temporal bone specimen, it was revealed that this nerve is predominantly a continuation of Arnold's nerve, also receiving fibres from the glossopharyngeal nerve and facial nerve. Histologically, the communicating branch from the facial nerve was confirmed.
Surgeons should be aware of the posterior auricular sensory branch and its clinical implications.
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