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Am J Otolaryngol. 1999 Nov-Dec;20(6):363-70.

Residual mesenchyme persisting into adulthood.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University of Minnesota School of Medicine, Minneapolis, USA.



(1) To detect the presence of residual mesenchyme in temporal bones of adults and children above 5 years of age; (2) to evaluate its regression with increasing age, and; (3) to detect pathologic conditions associated with the presence of unresolved mesenchyme.


We examined 1,404 human temporal bones of donors from 5 to 94 years of age for histopathologic evidence of mesenchyme. The presence of stellate (star-shaped) cells with interdigitating processes and large nuclei embedded in a structureless ground substance was labeled as "pure mesenchyme." Temporal bones showing these features and focal areas of fibrosis, fibroblasts, and capillaries were classified as showing "transitional mesenchyme." Selected sections were stained with Gomori's trichrome. Pathological features indicating otitis media and congenital anomalies of the ear were also documented. Case histories were reviewed, and any otologic complaints were noted. Statistical analysis was performed with the Chi-square test, analysis of variance, regression analysis, and confidence interval.


Mesenchyme was found in 2.07% of temporal bones of patients from 5 to 81 years of age. Of these, 92.1% had transitional mesenchyme, whereas 7.9% had pure mesenchyme. Seventy-six percent of the bones showed mesenchyme in the mastoid air cells. In all 3 bones with pure mesenchyme, it was present in the round window niche. Otitis media was associated with residual mesenchyme in 84.2% of the temporal bones. No pattern of regression of mesenchyme with increasing age was observed in temporal bones from patients over the age of 5 years.


Residual mesenchyme can be present in patients older than 5 years of age and can persist into adulthood, especially in the mastoid air cells. Persistence of mesenchyme is closely associated with evidence of otitis media.

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