Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 30 Aug 2021

The hypopharynx (rare plural: hypopharynges or hypopharynxes) or laryngopharynx forms the most inferior portion of the pharynx, being the continuation of the oropharynx superiorly and both the larynx and esophagus inferiorly. It also forms part of the upper respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract.

Gross anatomy

The hypopharynx begins as the continuation of the oropharynx at the pharyngoepiglottic fold (which is at the level of the hyoid bone) superiorly, and extends inferiorly to the level of the inferior aspect of the cricoid cartilage, where it continues as the cervical esophagus. 

It is a mucosa-lined, muscular tube with its posterolateral walls formed by the inferior constrictor muscle and anterior wall by laryngeal cartilages. It forms part of the pharyngeal mucosal space

  • anteriorly: post-cricoid mucosa, posterior cricoarytenoid muscle
  • posteriorly: mucosal wall, middle and inferior constrictor muscles
  • superiorly: hyoid bone, glossoepiglottic and pharyngoepiglottic folds
  • inferiorly: cricoid cartilage, cricopharyngeus muscle

Three subsites of the hypopharynx are described, being pertinent to localize where squamous cell carcinoma arises:

Related pathology

Anatomy: Head and neck

Anatomy: Head and neck

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: pharynx - illustration
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  • Case 1: normal appearance on barium swallow
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