Danger space

Last revised by Dr Jeremy Jones on 26 Sep 2021

The danger space is a deep compartment of the head and neck located behind the true retropharyngeal space, extending from the skull base to the mediastinum.

The danger space has no specific contents apart from a small amount of loose fatty connective tissue and is thus usually indistinguishable from the true retropharyngeal space on imaging, the danger space is often subsumed into descriptions of a single retropharyngeal space/compartment 4.

In healthy patients, it is indistinguishable from the retropharyngeal space. It is only visible when distended by fluid or pus, below the level of T1-T6, since the retropharyngeal space variably ends at this level.

It is a potential path for spread of infections (e.g. retropharyngeal abscess) from the pharynx to the mediastinum.​

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: expected location of the danger space (green)
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  • Figure 2: yellow line on annotated MRI
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  • Figure 3: yellow on annotated MRI
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