Parotid duct

Last revised by Dr Francis Deng on 08 Apr 2020

The parotid duct, also known as Stensen duct, drains saliva from the parotid gland into the oral cavity. It primarily secretes serous saliva.

The parotid duct passes anteriorly through the buccal fat superficial to the masseter muscle and over its anterior border, then through the buccopharyngeal fascia and the buccinator muscle. It then continues between the buccal mucosa and the buccinator to its opening in the vestibule of the mouth, located next to the upper second molar tooth at the parotid ampulla. The buccinator muscle ensures that ballooning of the duct does not occur during blowing.

It is approximately 5 cm long, At four different points along its length, it has mean diameters ranging between 1.4 mm and 0.5 mm, with a maximum of 2.3 mm and a minimum of 0.1 mm, depending on the site 7.

Several other structures run alongside the parotid duct:

It is named after the Danish anatomist Niels Stensen (1638-1686) 2 (also known as Nicolaus Steno) who was the first to describe it, initially in a sheep, in 1660. His colleague Sylvius (1614-1672) confirmed its presence in the human body and van Horne in Leyden named it after Stensen 6

Blockage of the parotid duct can occur secondary to salivary duct stones or external compression. Either cause of obstruction can cause pain and parotitis. Stones are more common in the submandibular gland and duct.

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: parotid sialadenitis
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  • Case 2: parotid duct stone
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