The larynx is an inferior continuation of the oropharynx. It extends from the epiglottis (namely the glossoepiglottic and pharyngoepiglottic folds) to the inferior aspect of the cricoid cartilage. Inferiorly, it continues as the cervical trachea. 

The larynx consists of a cartilage "skeleton", as well as internal structures that are divided into three subsites, mainly for the purposes of laryngeal cancer staging:

  • motor: the recurrent laryngeal nerve supplies all muscles of the larynx excluding the cricothyroid muscle (supplied by the external laryngeal nerve)
  • sensory: 
    • above the vocal cords: internal laryngeal nerve (branch of the superior laryngeal nerve)
    • below the vocal cords: recurrent laryngeal nerve
  • supraglottic: the supraglottic lymphatic network follows the superior laryngeal artery, piercing the thyrohyoid membrane and then draining into the superior deep cervical nodes and the pre-epiglottic nodes 6
  • subglottic: the infraglotttic lymphatic network drains to the inferior deep cervical nodes, following the inferior laryngeal artery, and/or the prelaryngeal (Delphian) nodes via the conus elasticus 6

Both the superior and inferior deep cervical nodes then drain into the right and left jugular trunks, which subsequently empty into the right lymphatic duct and the thoracic duct on the left. 

Head and neck anatomy
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Article information

rID: 9607
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Divisions of the larynx
  • Laryngeal subsites

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1: glottic cancer with subglottic extension
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    Figure 2
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    Figure 3: external anatomy
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    Figure 4
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