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Anatomic danger zones in cutaneous surgery of the head and neck

Shawn Allen, MD
Section Editor
Stanley J Miller, MD
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


This topic will discuss how to identify the anatomical danger zones in the head and neck area to avoid injuries during cutaneous surgery. Basic dermatologic procedures are discussed separately. (See "Dermatologic procedures".)


Surgeons operating in the head and neck area must have an in-depth understanding of the regional anatomy to achieve good surgical outcomes and avoid complications. The surgical risk of injury to nerves or other relevant anatomic structures should be discussed with the patient preoperatively, and informed written consent should be obtained. (See "Informed procedural consent".)

There are eight danger zones in the head and neck area where the motor or sensory nerves travel more superficially or nerve roots emerge from the skull foramina. Key structures to avoid during surgery include [1]:

The supraorbital and supratrochlear branches of the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve and accompanying blood vessels

The infraorbital branches of the maxillary branch of the trigeminal nerve and the infraorbital vessels

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 11, 2017.
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