Intraparotid lymph nodes

Last revised by Joel Hng on 15 Mar 2023

The intraparotid lymph nodes are groups of cervical lymph nodes located within the parenchyma of each of the parotid glands.

Among the salivary glands, only the parotid glands have their own internal lymph nodes due to the late encapsulation of the parotids during embryologic development.

Parotid nodes receive drainage from cutaneous sites, such as around the external ear, forehead/temple, eyelids, cheek, nasal cavities and nasopharynx 8.

Based on cadaveric studies 1,2, the vast majority of normal parotid glands have identifiable lymph nodes (90%). Of these, about two-thirds have lymph nodes in only the superficial lobe, whilst one-third have nodes in both the superficial and deep lobes. Superficial lobes have on average three nodes, while deep lobes should have no more than three nodes. Altogether, superficial lobe nodes account for about 90% of all intraparotid lymph nodes. Within the superficial lobe, nodes tend to be located along the retromandibular vein, particularly in the parotid tail.

Normal intraparotid lymph nodes measure <6 mm 3.

The intraparotid lymph nodes are an important site of metastasis of head and neck cancers, most commonly cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma and, less commonly, oral cavity cancer 4-6.

See also

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads

Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: lymphatics of head and neck (Gray's illustration)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Case 1: enlarged parotid lymph node
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.

     Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

     Thank you for updating your details.