Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy

, Volume 41, Issue 9, pp 1011–1018 | Cite as

Posterior ethmoid cell expansion towards the inferolateral region of the sphenoid sinus: a computed tomography study

  • Jinfeng LiuEmail author
  • Qitong Liu
  • Ningyu WangEmail author
Original Article



The aim of this study was to investigate the anatomical imaging characteristics of posterior ethmoid cells (PEs) expanding towards the inferolateral region of the sphenoid sinus (SS).


This study included a total of 278 inpatients (556 sides) whose paranasal sinus computed tomography (CT) scans were reviewed and collected from May 2018 to February 2019. The anatomical imaging characteristics of PEs expanding towards the inferolateral region of the SS were observed.


PEs expanding towards the inferolateral region of the SS formed an inferolateral spheno-ethmoid cell (ISEC). ISECs were observed on three sides (0.54%; 3/556) in three cases (1.08%; 3/278). All of the ISECs were present unilaterally on the right side of the SS. The ISECs originated from the most posterior ethmoid cell; they were first located at the medial aspect of the orbital apex, pneumatized continually backward to the inferomedial wall of the orbital apex, and then extended into the lateral region of the SS. The ISECs further extended laterally, inferiorly and posteriorly beyond the sphenoid body into the greater wing and/or pterygoid process.


An ISEC is a rare variation of ethmoid air cells. Preoperative recognition of ISECs is essential to achieve safe and effective endoscopic sinus surgery because of the important anatomical location.


Ethmoid sinus Sphenoid sinus Anatomic variation Tomography X-ray Computed 



Ethmoid maxillary sinus


Endoscopic sinus surgery


Internal carotid artery


Inferolateral spheno-ethmoid cell


Lateral recess of the sphenoid sinus


Maxillary sinus


Orbital apex


Posterior ethmoid cell


Retromaxillary posterior ethmoid cell


Sphenoid sinus


Supraorbital ethmoid cell



The general work was supported by the Beijing Natural Science Foundation (7162066) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 81271090/H1304).

Author contributions

JL discovered and identified this anatomical variation, analysed the clinical significance of this variation, and wrote the manuscript. NW and JL reconfirmed this anatomical variation together. QL completed the image editing.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no relevant competing interests to declare in relation to this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Beijing Chaoyang HospitalCapital Medical UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of Radiology, Beijing Chaoyang HospitalCapital Medical UniversityBeijingChina

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