J Neurol Surg B Skull Base 2021; 82(01): 002-006
DOI: 10.1055/s-0040-1722630
Orbital Anatomy
Review Article

Embryology of the Orbit

Raymond I. Cho
1  Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, Columbus, Ohio, United States
Alon Kahana
2  Department of Ophthalmology, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, Michigan; Consultants in Ophthalmic and Facial Plastic Surgery, P.C., Southfield, Michigan, United States
› Author Affiliations
Funding None.


The orbit houses and protects the ocular globe and the supporting structures, and occupies a strategic position below the anterior skull base and adjacent to the paranasal sinuses. Its embryologic origins are inextricably intertwined with those of the central nervous system, skull base, and face. Although the orbit contains important contributions from four germ cell layers (surface ectoderm, neuroectoderm, neural crest, and mesoderm), a significant majority originate from the neural crest cells. The bones of the orbit, face, and anterior cranial vault are mostly neural crest in origin. The majority of the bones of the skull base are formed through endochondral ossification, whereas the cranial vault is formed through intramembranous ossification. Familiarity with the embryology and fetal development of the orbit can aid in understanding its anatomy, as well as many developmental anomalies and pathologic conditions that affect the orbit.


Presented at the 30th Annual Meeting of the North American Skull Base Society, February 8, 2020, San Antonio, Texas, United States.

Publication History

Publication Date:
02 February 2021 (online)

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