Dura mater

Dr Craig Hacking and A.Prof Frank Gaillard et al.

The dura mater, also known as the pachymeninx, is the tough outer layer of the meninges that surrounds the central nervous system and is pierced by the cranial nerves, the internal carotid arteries and the vertebral arteries

Intracranially it is formed by two layers:

  • outer endosteal layer, continuous via sutures and foramina with the periosteum
  • inner meningeal layer, continuous inferiorly with the theca of the spinal cord

These two layers are adherent except where separated by the dural venous sinuses, including the cavernous sinus, which are analogous to the epidural venous plexus of the spinal canal

In the young the extension across unfused sutures makes the dura inseparable from these, thus limiting extradural hemorrhages (EDH) to the sutures. As the calvarial bones fuse the suture layer involutes. The dura, however, becomes thicker and more adherent to the overlying bone with age, also accounting for the lower incidence of EDHs in the elderly.

The inner layer requires little nourishment. Whereas the outer layer is markedly vascular and derives its blood supply from the adherent bone. Arterial supply is therefore dependent on the site of the dura:

All these vessels course between the two layers of the dura.

Venous drainage occurs via multiple unnamed meningeal veins that drain directly into the dural venous sinuses.

Like the arterial supply, innervation is dependent on the site of the dura:

  • the dominant nerve supplying most of the supratentorial dura is the tentorial nerve (a branch of the ophthalmic nerve (CN Va) which supplies the falx, calvarial dura and superior surface of the tentorium.
  • anterior cranial fossa
    • anterior meningeal branches from the ethmoidal nerves (CN Va)
    • meningeal branches from the maxillary nerve (CN Vb)
  • middle cranial fossa
  • posterior cranial fossa

"Dura mater" derives from the medieval Latin "durus" and "mater", i.e. "hard mother". This term was created in Stephen of Antioch's translation of Hali Abbas in the 12th century 2. Arabic medicine at that time conjectured that the meninges gave rise to all the membranes of the body and expressed relationships between different tissue types in terms of familial relationships (mother, son, daughter, etc.).

Anatomy: Brain
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Article information

rID: 5053
Section: Anatomy
Tag: anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Pachymeninges
  • Pachymeninx
  • Pachymeninge

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: layers of the scalp and meninges
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  • Figure 2: dura mater in a meningitis case
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  • Figure 3
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  • Case 1: epidural hematoma displacing sinus
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