Immunohistochemical determination of the sympathetic pathway in the orbit via the cranial nerves in humans.J Neurosurg. 2004 Dec; 101(6):1037-44.JN
The present study was undertaken to elucidate the extent and precise distribution of the postganglionic sympathetic fibers in the cranial nerves projecting to the orbit and to reconstruct sympathetic routes in the orbit in humans. For this purpose, the authors made an immunohistochemical determination of the sympathetic fibers by using an antibody against norepinephrine-synthetic enzyme, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH).
Specimens containing the orbit and the cavernous sinus were obtained from formalin-fixed human cadavers. First, it was confirmed that the superior cervical ganglion contained strongly immunostained TH-positive neuronal cell bodies and fibers. After careful dissection of the cranial nerves projecting to the orbit, different segments of each cranial nerve were processed for immunohistochemical analysis for TH. All of the intraorbital cranial nerves contained TH-positive sympathetic fibers, although the amounts were very different in each cranial nerve. At the proximal site of the common tendinous ring, TH-positive fibers were found mainly in the abducent and trochlear nerves. At the distal site of this ring, TH-positive fibers were lost or markedly reduced in number in the abducent and trochlear nerves and were distributed mostly in the ophthalmic and oculomotor nerves. Among the cranial nerves projecting to the orbit, the ophthalmic nerve and its bifurcated nerves--frontal, lacrimal, and nasociliary--contained numerous TH-positive fibers.
The authors conclude that the postganglionic sympathetic fibers are distributed to all cranial nerves projecting to the orbit and that the ophthalmic nerve provides a major sympathetic route in the orbital cavity in humans.