Radiological assessment of the inferior alveolar artery course in human corpse mandibles

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CT assessment of the entire course of the inferior alveolar artery (IAA) within the mandibular canal.


After contrast medium injection (180 or 400 mg/ml iodine concentration) into the external carotid arteries of 15 fresh human cadaver heads, the main IAA’s position in the canal (cranial, buccal, lingual or caudal) was assessed in dental CT images of partially edentulous mandibles.


The course of the main IAA could be followed at both iodine concentrations. The higher concentration gave the expected better contrast, without creating artefacts, and improved visibility of smaller arteries, such as anastomotic sections, dental branches and the incisive branch. The main IAA changed its position in the canal more often than so far known (mean 4.3 times, SD 1.24, range 2–7), but with a similar bilateral course. A cranial position was most often detected (42 %), followed by lingual (36 %), caudal (16 %) and buccal ( 6 %).


With this non-invasive radiologic method, the entire course of the main IAA in the mandibular canal could be followed simultaneously with other bone structures on both sides of human cadaver mandibles. This methodology allows one to amend existing anatomical and histological data, which are important for surgical interventions near the mandibular canal.

Key points

Contrast medium injection displayed the inferior alveolar artery’s course on mandibular CTs

An iodine concentration of 400 mg/ml enabled visibility until the chin

Frequent position changes of the artery in the mandibular canal were detected

Cranial and lingual positions were most often determined

Course similarities on the respective left and right sides were found

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The authors of this study express special appreciation and thankfulness to the senior author Prof. Hanns Plenk Jr., who significantly contributed to this project, but unexpectedly passed away in June 2014. Further, the authors thank Teresa Keindl and Helge Schöchtner for their support in performing the CT scans. All authors have read and approved the manuscript and have agreed with submission to this journal.

The scientific guarantor of this publication is Prof. Christian Ulm, DMD, MD. The authors of this manuscript declare no relationships with any companies whose products or services may be related to the subject matter of the article. The authors state that this work has not received any funding. Stefan Lettner (Karl Donath Laboratory for Hard Tissue and Biomaterial Research, Division of Oral Surgery, Medical University of Vienna, Austria) kindly provided statistical advice in drawing Fig. 3. Institutional review board approval was obtained. Written informed consent was not required for this study because the human corpses used for contrast medium injection and the CT imaging protocol had been bequeathed to the Anatomical Institute of the Medical University of Vienna for medical–scientific research and training purposes. Methodology: diagnostic and experimental study.

Author information

Correspondence to Kristina Bertl.

Additional information

Hanns Plenk Jr passed away in June 2014.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

An example of the course of both inferior alveolar arteries (IAAs; red) in the mandibular canal, with 2 exiting dental branches on the right side and 3 exiting dental branches on the left side. The movie is rebuilt from the same specimen as Figure 1. (MPG 95685 kb)

Movie 1

An example of the course of both inferior alveolar arteries (IAAs; red) in the mandibular canal, with 2 exiting dental branches on the right side and 3 exiting dental branches on the left side. The movie is rebuilt from the same specimen as Figure 1. (MPG 95685 kb)

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Bertl, K., Hirtler, L., Dobsak, T. et al. Radiological assessment of the inferior alveolar artery course in human corpse mandibles. Eur Radiol 25, 1148–1153 (2015) doi:10.1007/s00330-014-3484-3

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  • CT angiography
  • Computed tomography
  • Inferior alveolar artery
  • Mandibular canal
  • Cadaver study