Masticator space

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 25 Apr 2022

The masticator space is the deep compartment of the head and neck that contains the muscles of mastication.

The masticator spaces are paired suprahyoid cervical spaces on each side of the face. Each space is enveloped by the superficial (investing) layer of the deep cervical fascia. The superficial layer of the deep cervical fascia splits into two at the lower border of the mandible. The inner layer runs deep to the medial pterygoid muscle and attaches to the skull base medial to foramen ovale. The outer layer covers the masseter and temporalis muscles and attaches to the parietal calvaria superiorly.

The masticator space contains fibroadipose tissue of potential spaces between the muscles and bones that can be described by the following subcompartments 9:

  1. submasseteric space
  2. pterygomandibular space
  3. temporal space
    1. superficial temporal space
    2. deep temporal space
  4. infratemporal space

Masticator space malignancy or infection can spread perineurally via the foramen ovale and along the course of the mandibular division of the trigeminal nerve into the middle cranial fossa

  • limited use when imaging the masticator space
  • masseter muscles, zygomatic arch, outer cortex of the ramus of mandible and suprazygomatic segment of temporal muscle can all be visualized
  • limited visualization of a number of important structures 3:
    • pterygoid muscles
    • pterygoid venous plexus
    • mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: in green on annotated MRI
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  • Figure 2: annotated MRI
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  • Case 1: BOS osteomyelitis; masticator space spread
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  • Case 2: post tooth extraction
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