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Cells Tissues Organs. 2010;191(1):47-56. doi: 10.1159/000226276. Epub 2009 Jun 24.

Histotopographic study of the fibroadipose connective cheek system.

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Section of Anatomy, Department of Human Anatomy and Physiology, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the morphology of the superficial musculoaponeurotic system (SMAS). Eight embalmed cadavers were analyzed: one side of the face was macroscopically dissected; on the other side, full-thickness samples of the parotid, zygomatic, nasolabial fold and buccal regions were taken. In all specimens, a laminar connective tissue layer (SMAS) bounding two different fibroadipose connective layers was identified. The superficial fibroadipose layer presented vertically oriented fibrous septa, connecting the dermis with the superficial aspect of the SMAS. In the deep fibroadipose connective layer, the fibrous septa were obliquely oriented, connecting the deep aspect of the SMAS to the parotid-masseteric fascia. This basic arrangement shows progressive thinning of the SMAS from the preauricular district to the nasolabial fold (p < 0.05). In the parotid region, the mean thicknesses of the superficial and deep fibroadipose connective tissues were 1.63 and 0.8 mm, respectively, whereas in the region of the nasolabial fold the superficial layer is not recognizable and the mean thickness of the deep fibroadipose connective layer was 2.9 mm. The connective subcutaneous tissue of the face forms a three-dimensional network connecting the SMAS to the dermis and deep muscles. These connective laminae connect adipose lobules of various sizes within the superficial and deep fibroadipose tissues, creating a three-dimensional network which modulates transmission of muscle contractions to the skin. Changes in the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the fibroadipose connective system, reducing its viscoelastic properties, may contribute to ptosis of facial soft tissues during aging.

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