A section of the mastoid process shows it to be hollowed out into a number of spaces, the mastoid cells, which exhibit the greatest possible variety as to their size and number.
At the upper and front part of the process they are large and irregular and contain air, but toward the lower part they diminish in size, while those at the apex of the process are frequently quite small and contain marrow; occasionally they are entirely absent, and the mastoid is then solid throughout.
In addition to these a large irregular cavity is situated at the upper and front part of the bone. It is called the mastoid antrum (tympanic antrum), and must be distinguished from the mastoid cells, though it communicates with them. Like the mastoid cells it is filled with air and lined by a prolongation of the mucous membrane of the tympanic cavity, with which it communicates. The tympanic antrum is bounded above by a thin plate of bone, the tegmen tympani, which separates it from the middle fossa of the base of the skull; below by the mastoid process; laterally by the squama just below the temporal line, and medially by the lateral semicircular canal of the internal ear which projects into its cavity. It opens in front into that portion of the tympanic cavity which is known as the attic or epitympanic recess. The tympanic antrum is a cavity of some considerable size at the time of birth; the mastoid air cells may be regarded as diverticula from the antrum, and begin to appear at or before birth; by the fifth year they are well-marked, but their development is not completed until toward puberty.