Detailed anatomy of the trochlear nerve in the superior oblique muscle

  • Yong Seok Nam
  • Yooyeon Park
  • In-Beom Kim
  • Sun Young ShinEmail author
Basic Science



The purpose of this study was to elucidate the detailed anatomy of the trochlear nerve in the superior oblique muscle (SOM) and the intramuscular innervation pattern using Sihler staining.


SOMs were dissected from their origin to the insertion in 28 eyes of 14 cadavers. The following distances were determined: from the SOM insertion to the trochlear, from the trochlear to the entry site of the anterior branch or posterior branch, and the widths of the main trunk and anterior and posterior branches. Sihler staining was then performed.


The trochlear nerve traveled straight ahead medially and divided. Eighteen of 28 (64.3%) orbits showed two anterior and posterior branches, six (21.4%) showed three branches, and four (14.3%) showed no branching. The most distally located intramuscular nerve ending was observed at 62.4 ± 2.4% of the length of each muscle (35.8 mm from insertion when considering that the length of the SOM was 57.4 mm) and at 29.9 ± 3.2% of the length of each muscle (17.2 mm from the trochlear). Additionally, the length of the intramuscular arborization part was 9.4 ± 1.1% of the length of the SOM (5.4 mm when considering that the length of the SOM was 57.4 mm). Nonoverlap between two intramuscular arborizations of the nerve was detected in 20 of 28 cases (71.4%). Eight cases (28.6%) showed a definite overlap of two zones.


This study provided a good understanding of the anatomy of the trochlear nerve in the SOM.


Anatomy Superior oblique muscle Trochlear nerve 



This study was funded by the Catholic Medical Center Research Foundation made in the program year of 2018 (No.5-2018-B0001-00006).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors. (Study on the cadaver is exempt from IRB in Korea.)

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all cadaver donors for using on the research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yong Seok Nam
    • 1
  • Yooyeon Park
    • 2
  • In-Beom Kim
    • 1
  • Sun Young Shin
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Institute for Applied Anatomy, College of Medicine, Seoul St. Mary’s HospitalThe Catholic University of KoreaSeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, College of Medicine, Seoul St. Mary’s HospitalThe Catholic University of KoreaSeoulRepublic of Korea

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