Pharyngeal nerve

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 20 Sep 2020

The pharyngeal nerve is a small branch of the maxillary division of the trigeminal nerve and contributes to the pterygopalatine ganglion.

Gross anatomy

The pharyngeal nerve divides off the maxillary division just after emerging from the foramen rotundum to enter the pterygopalatine fossa. At the pterygopalatine ganglion receives parasympathetic fibers that supply pharyngeal mucosal glands which arrive at the ganglia via the greater petrosal nerve.

It leaves the fossa posteroinferiorly through the palatovaginal canal with the pharyngeal branch of the maxillary artery. It emerges in the posterosuperior aspect of the nasal cavity where it supplies the mucosa of the superior nasopharynx

Variant anatomy

One to two tiny branches may leave the nerve to enter the orbit through the inferior orbital fissure. These orbital branches supply some periosteum, the orbitalis muscle (a vestigial smooth muscle covering the inferior orbital fissure which is of unknown significance in humans) and may contribute mucosal sensory fibers to the sphenoidal and ethmoidal sinuses

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