Aryepiglottic folds

Last revised by Dr Patrick J Rock on 11 May 2021

The aryepiglottic folds are two ligamentomuscular structures within the supraglottic larynx that function to protect the airway when swallowing.

Gross anatomy

Each aryepiglottic fold is comprised of the superior ligamentous edge of the quadrangular membrane and covering mucous membrane 1, the extensions of the oblique arytenoid and thyroarytenoid muscles 2 and two rounded swellings shaped by the cuneiform and corniculate cartilages beneath 1.  

Function

When swallowing, the aryepiglottic folds function as the chief protective airway mechanism1. The extensions of the thyroarytenoid muscle (thyroepiglottic muscle) adduct the aryepiglottic folds during swallow to prevent aspiration. When the larynx rises during the swallow, the epiglottis will often cover the laryngeal inlet as a protective mechanism 1. If coverage of the laryngeal inlet is deficient, laryngeal aspiration may ensue.

Practical points

The aryepiglottic folds mark the lateral borders of the laryngeal inlet 2 and are therefore a critical structure for anesthesiologists when performing direct laryngoscopy 3.

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