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Assessing age-related ossification of the petro-occipital fissure: laying the foundation for understanding the clinicopathologies of the cranial base.

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Center for Anatomy and Functional Morphology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1 Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, NY 10029, USA.


The petro-occipital fissure (POF) lies within a critical interface of cranial growth and development in the posterior cranial fossa. The relationships between skeletal and soft tissues make this region especially important for examining biomechanical and basic biologic forces that may mold the cranial base and contribute to significant clinicopathologies associated with the structures located near the POF. Therefore, this study investigates the POF in adults in both preserved human cadavers and dried crania in order to determine if developmental changes can be observed and, if so, their value in age assessment as a model system for describing normal morphogenesis of the POF. This study demonstrates that tissue within the POF undergoes characteristic changes in ossification with age, the onset of which is considerably later than that of other synchondroses of the cranial base. Statistically, there is a moderate to strong correlation between age and stage of ossification within the POF. Further, male crania were observed to reach greater degrees of ossification at a younger age than female crania and that individual asymmetry in ossification of the tissue within the POF was not uncommon. An understanding of the basic temporal biological processes of the POF may yield insight into the development of clinicopathologies in this region of the cranial base.

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