The scalp is the soft tissue covering of the calvarial vault. It extends from the eyebrows anteriorly to the external occipital protuberance and superior nuchal lines posteriorly to the zygomatic arches and external acoustic canals on both sides. It may also be designated the epicranium.


Layers of the Scalp

Grossly, the scalp has five layers.1 From superficial to deep, these include (Figs. 6-1 to 6-3):

The scalp also contains the arteries, veins, lymphatics, and nerves that supply the soft tissue.

Skin Proper

The skin overlying the calvaria is continuous with the skin of the face and neck. It is generally thinnest anteriorly at the forehead, where it measures approximately 3 mm, and it is thickest posteriorly at the occiput, where it measures up to 8 mm. The skin is usually slightly thicker in women than men. It gradually increases in thickness from childhood until age 35 years (women) or 55 years (men) and then begins to show thinning and atrophy.2

The epidermis is the outer squamous epithelium of the skin. It is composed predominantly of keratinocytes, with smaller populations of melanocytes, Langerhans cells, and Merkel cells. The superficial extensions of the dermal appendages pass through the epidermis to reach the skin surface.

The dermis is the underlying support layer composed predominantly of fibroblasts and ground substance. It houses the specialized dermal appendages (dermal adnexae), including the eccrine sweat glands, hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and apocrine units. These glands differ in their origin, distribution, and secretions. The apocrine glands, sebaceous glands, and hair follicles arise together from a common population of stem cells distinct from those giving rise to the eccrine glands. The eccrine glands produce mostly sweat, whereas the apocrine glands produce mostly scent. The apocrine and sebaceous glands feed their secretions toward the hair shaft with which they arise. The eccrine glands feed their secretions directly to the skin surface.

The follicles and sebaceous glands are influenced by the levels of androgens. With age, and under the influence of androgens, the diameter of the hair follicles shrinks in size, leading to loss of terminal hairs, a process called androgenetic alopecia (common pattern baldness). Conversely, increased levels of androgens cause enlargement of the sebaceous glands.

Superficial Fascia

The superficial fascia of the scalp contains dense adipose tissue that is continuous with the subcutaneous tissue of the face and neck. Anteriorly and laterally, it is continuous with the subcutaneous tissue over the frontalis and orbicularis oculi muscles. Anteriorly in the midline it stops at the bridge of the nose. Posteriorly, the superficial fascia is continuous with the subcutaneous tissues of the neck. Laterally it extends downward, superficial to the temporalis muscles, to attach to the external ears.

The superficial fascial layer varies in thickness. It measures 4 to 6 mm in people of normal weight but 20 mm or more in obese individuals. Within this layer, multiple, vertically oriented reticular fibers divide the layer into small compartments (Figs. 6-4 and 6-5). These septa form strong connections between the superficial dermis and the subjacent galea aponeurotica. As a consequence, the subcutaneous layer is relatively inelastic and the dermis, subcutaneous tissue, and galeal aponeurosis move together as one unit.

The subcutaneous layer has a rich network of arteries, veins, and lymphatics. The arteries are tethered to the fibrous septa, so they are relatively immobile and unable to constrict quickly after a laceration.3

Muscles of the Scalp

The scalp contains multiple individual muscles linked into functional units with the galea aponeurotica.


The occipitofrontalis is the major muscle complex of the epicranium. It is composed of the paired frontalis muscles anteriorly and the paired occipitalis muscles posteriorly. These muscles are interconnected by the galea aponeurotica (Fig. 6-6).5 Each frontalis muscle is a thin quadrilateral sheet of muscle that is attached to the overlying superficial fascia externally (especially at the eyebrows) and that ascends into the galea aponeurotica anterior to the coronal suture. The frontalis muscle has no bony attachment.4 The medial margins of the two frontalis muscles blend together above the nasal root. The medial fibers of each frontalis muscle continue inferiorly to become continuous with the procerus (see later). The intermediate fibers of the frontalis blend with the orbicularis oculi and the corrugator supercilii (see later). The lateral fibers of the frontalis muscles blend with the lateral portions of the orbicularis oculi over the zygomatic processes of the frontal bones.5 Because the frontalis has no bony anchor, hematomas and other pathologic processes may extend anteriorly and inferiorly, deep to the aponeurotic sheath, to reach the eyelids. Posteriorly, the paired quadrilateral shaped occipitalis muscles arise by tendinous fibers from the lateral two thirds of the superior nuchal lines of the occipital bone and mastoid processes of the temporal bones. They insert into the galea aponeurotica at a level slightly above the superior aspect of the auricles.

The paired frontalis muscles work in conjunction to elevate the eyebrows and forehead and to produce the characteristic transverse creases of the forehead. The occipitalis acts in conjunction to tighten the scalp. In many individuals they do not demonstrate any motion.6 Both the frontalis and the occipitalis are innervated by the facial nerve—the frontalis by temporal branches of the facial nerve and the occipitalis by occipital branches of the facial nerve.

Jan 22, 2016 | Posted by in NEUROLOGICAL IMAGING | Comments Off on Scalp

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