A preliminary 3D computed tomography study of the human maxillary sinus and nasal cavity

Lauren N. Butaric, Robert C. McCarthy, Douglas C. Broadfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Despite centuries of investigation, the function of the maxillary sinus (MS) and underlying patterns governing its form remain elusive. In this study, we articulate a methodology for collecting volumetric data for the MS and nasal cavity (NC) from computed tomography (CT) scans and report details for a small sample of 39 dried human crania of known ecogeographic provenience useful for assessing variation in MS size and shape. We use scaling analyses to preliminarily test the hypothesis that volumes of the nasal cavity (NCV) and maxillary sinus (MSV) are inversely correlated such that the NC covaries with size of the face, whereas the MS "fills in" the leftover space [proposed by Shea: Am J Phys Anthropol 47 (1977):289-300]. Against expectation, MSV is not significantly correlated with NCV or any cranial size variable. NCV, on the other hand, scales isometrically with facial size. The results of this pilot study suggest that NCV covaries with facial size, but that the MS does not simply fill in the leftover space in the face. The role, if any, of the MSs in midfacial function and architecture remains unclear. Larger sample sizes, additional environmental variables, and assessment of MS and NC shape are necessary to resolve this issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-436
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • nasal cavity
  • scaling
  • variation
  • volume

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


Dive into the research topics of 'A preliminary 3D computed tomography study of the human maxillary sinus and nasal cavity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this