Anatomy, Head and Neck, Temporoparietal Fascia

Article Author:
Colin Bohr
Article Editor:
Carl Shermetaro
10/27/2018 12:31:54 PM
PubMed Link:
Anatomy, Head and Neck, Temporoparietal Fascia


The temporoparietal fascia (TPF) lies under the skin and subcutaneous tissue over the temporal fossa. It is also known as the superficial temporal fascia. It is continuous with the superficial musculoaponeurotic system that is inferior to the zygomatic arch. These two structures are continuous with the platysma muscle in the neck creating a unified fascia layer from the scalp to clavicle. The temporoparietal fascia joins the orbicularis oculi and frontalis muscles anteriorly and the occipitalis muscle posteriorly. It is approximately 2 to 3 mm thick. The layers from the skin to the cranium from superficial to deep in this region are as follows:

  • Skin
  • Subcutaneous tissue 
  • Temporoparietal fascia (superficial temporal fascia)
  • Innominate fascia 
  • Deep temporal fascia (divides into a deep and superficial layer)
  • Temporalis muscle 
  • Pericranium
  • Cranium 

The deep temporal fascia splits into a deep and superficial layer before it inserts into the superior aspect of the zygomatic arch. The superficial temporal fat pad divides these two layers. A proper understanding of the anatomy surrounding the temporoparietal fascia is important for surgical considerations as it can serve as donor tissue for reconstruction. Additionally, a thorough understanding of the temporoparietal fascia's relation to surrounding neurovascular structures is integral to safe surgical dissections in this area.

Structure and Function

Beneath the TPF is a loose areolar and avascular plane separating the TPF from the deep temporal fascia. This layer may be referred to as the innominate fascia. It is this plane of tissue that permits the superficial scalp to move freely over the deeper muscular fascial layers. The combination of the superficial loose layers and the deep tight layers allows the scalp to maintain structural integrity with necessary mobility. Additionally, the role of fascia within the human body is to enclose structures (i.e., muscles, viscera, or neurovascular bundles) into discrete organizational patterns.


The development of head and neck structures is centered on the branchial and pharyngeal apparatus. At 4 to 7 weeks gestation, the head and neck consist of 5 or 6 pairs of branchial arches. Branchial arches are divided by external indentations called branchial clefts, which are lined by ectoderm. The corresponding inward groove is a pharyngeal pouch that is lined by endoderm. The pharyngeal pouch is the primitive pharynx. Branchial arches are composed of mesoderm. Within the branchial arch mesoderm, connective tissue (i.e., cartilage, and fascia) will form.

Blood Supply and Lymphatics

The scalp is rich in arterial anastomoses with the majority of the blood supply arising from the external carotid artery. The vascular supply to the temporoparietal fascia is the superficial temporal artery, which is the terminal branch of the external carotid artery. It pierces through the substance of the parotid gland anterior to the tragus. The scalp lymphatic system lacks lymph nodes and drains primarily into parotid, anterior/posterior auricular, and occipital lymph nodes. Venous drainage patterns follow that of lymphatic drainage.


The superficial temporal artery runs within the temporoparietal fascia along with the frontal branch of the facial nerve. The sensory supply to the scalp is from the trigeminal nerve medially and the temporal, auricular, and occipital nerves laterally and posteriorly. It is important for surgical considerations to understand the course of the frontotemporal branch of the facial nerve in this region. The nerve exits the parotid gland within the parotid-masseteric fascia and will run superiorly within the innominate fascia over the zygomatic arch. At 1.5 to 3 cm above the superior border of the zygomatic arch and 0.9 to 1.4 posterior to the lateral orbital rim, the nerve will transition to a more superficial plane at the undersurface of the TPF. This area has been termed the fascial transition zone.


The main muscle occupying the temporal fossa is the temporalis muscle. It is a triangular muscle that broadly originates on the parietal and frontal bone of the temporal fossa and the deep surface of the deep temporal fascia. It attaches to the coronoid process and anterior ramus of the mandible. The trigeminal nerve innervates it via the deep temporal nerves. The action of this muscle is upon the mandible and results in elevation for jaw closure and also causes retraction of the jaw.

Surgical Considerations

The TPF flap provides a wide range of utility in reconstruction within the head and neck. It was first described in 1898 for reconstruction of an ear (following a horse bite) and reconstruction of the lower eyelid. The advantages provided by the flap are its size and flexibility. Up to 14 cm TPF can be harvested safely, and the flap can act as a fascial, fasciocutaneous, or osseofascial flap. Uses for the TPF are diverse and include forehead/brow, auricular, and lip reconstruction. Additionally, TPF plication has been described to decrease lateral canthal rhytids and to elevate the lateral brow during rhytidectomy. Plication also provides deep tissue support and can aid in preventing alopecia and visible scar formation.

When operating in this area, care must be taken to avoid injury to branches of the facial nerve. Dissection in the temporal region is safe above the superficial layer of the deep temporal fascia below the innominate fascia. This will ensure that the frontotemporal branch of the facial nerve is superficial to the plane of dissection. Additionally, dissection within the correct plane is necessary for the safe execution of zygomatic arch fracture reduction utilizing Gilles approach. During this procedure, a 2.5 cm temporal incision is made superior and anterior to the helix within the hairline. Care must be taken to avoid the superficial temporal artery. Dissection is carried down the to deep layer of the deep temporal fascia. The fascia is incised, and the temporalis muscle is exposed. An instrument is then used to bluntly dissect between the deep temporalis fascia and the temporalis muscle using a sweeping motion. Once to the level of the depressed zygomatic arch fracture, a Rowe zygomatic elevator is then used to apply an outward force on the fracture.

Additionally, the temporalis fascia has been used routinely in a tympanoplasty for reconstruction of the tympanic membrane. Given the ease of grafting, this autologous donor site is used for both medial and lateral tympanoplasty. Temporalis fascia can be used for both subtotal and total repair of tympanic membrane perforations. 

Clinical Significance

As mentioned earlier, a proper understanding of the TPF and its surrounding structures are essential to safely operating in this area. Additionally, understanding fascia layers can help understand the spread of infections and tumors within an anatomical area.

Other Issues

The temporoparietal fascia is a very reliable flap with a good blood supply. However, any injury to the blood supply can easily lead to flap necrosis. In patients with burns, head trauma or prior surgery to the scalp or skull, the blood supply may be compromised- hence its use as a flap is not recommended. One of the ways to assess the blood supply is with the use of Doppler.


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