Functional aspects of the Eustachian tube by means of 3D-modeling
The extent of dysfunction of the Eustachian tube (ET) is relevant in understanding the pathogenesis of secondary otological diseases such as acute or chronic otitis media. The underlying mechanism of ET dysfunction remains poorly understood except for an apparent genesis such as a nasopharyngeal tumor or cleft palate. To better describe the ET, its functional anatomy, and the biomechanical valve mechanism and subsequent development of diagnostic and interventional tools, a three-dimensional model based on thin-layer histology was created from an ET in this study. Blackface sheep was chosen as a donor. The 3-D model was generated by the coherent alignment of the sections. It was then compared with the cone-beam computed tomography dataset of the complete embedded specimen taken before slicing. The model shows the topographic relation of the individual components, such as the bone and cartilage, the muscles and connective tissue, as well as the lining epithelium with the lumen. It indicates a limited spiraling rotation of the cartilaginous tube over its length and relevant positional relationships of the tensor and levator veli palatine muscles.