Last revised by Craig Hacking on 22 Feb 2024

The nasopharynx (plural: nasopharynges or nasopharynxes) forms the superior-most part of the pharynx, in continuity with the inferior oropharynx, and the posterior continuation of the anterior nasal cavity. It also forms part of the upper respiratory tract.

  • anteriorly: posterior nares and posterior margin of nasal septum 1,2

  • inferiorly: soft palate 2. Levator veli palatini accompanies the Eustachian tube and inserts into posterior part of soft palate. Tensor veli palatini runs around the nasopharynx and hooks around the pterygoid hamulus before inserts into membranous part of nasopharynx 5.

  • superiorly: basisphenoid and basiocciput 1,2

    • roof of the nasopharynx is called the vault (or fornix) of the pharynx, where the mucosa firmly attaches to the sphenoid and pharyngobasilar fascia

    • adenoid lymphoid tissue is also located at the roof 5

  • posteriorly: C1 and C2 1

  • laterally

    • the pharyngeal opening of the Eustachian tube is located in the center of the lateral wall 1,2 It pierces the pharyngobasilar fascia. Posterior to the cartilaginous end of the tube is ridge named torus tubarius. Behind the torus tubarius is fossa of Rosenmuller 5

    • lymphoid tissue aggregates, also known as the tubal tonsil occur around the opening of the Eustachian tube 1,3

    • the fossa of Rosenmüller lies between the posterior margin of the Eustachian tube and the posterior wall of the nasopharynx 1,2

    • separated posterolaterally from the carotid sheath by styloid process and styloid muscle 5

Lymphatic drainage in the nasopharynx occurs laterally and medially:

  • lateral drainage pathway: lymph vessels traverse the superior pharyngeal constrictor muscle and drain into the lateral retropharyngeal, deep cervical and posterior triangle lymph nodes 4

  • medial drainage pathway: lymph vessels from the roof and posterior wall drain into the median retropharyngeal lymph nodes 4

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1
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  • Figure 2
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  • Figure 3: nasopharynx on CT neck (annotated)
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