Pterygoid venous plexus

Last revised by Leon Chau on 13 Jan 2022

The pterygoid venous plexus (plural: plexuses) is a small intercommunicating cluster of venules that is intimately related to the lateral pterygoid muscle, lying both intramuscularly and around the muscle.

The plexus is formed by very small veins that are the venous counterparts to the branches of the maxillary artery. However, most of the blood draining from the tissues supplied by this artery bypasses the plexus, instead passing back to the systemic circulation via the facial, pharyngeal, and diploic veins.

In addition, the inferior ophthalmic vein and deep facial vein also drain into the pterygoid plexus. The plexus itself drains via the maxillary vein before it forms the retromandibular vein.

Emissary veins also anastomose between the plexus and the cavernous sinus, via the foramina ovale and lacerum.


The veins of the pterygoid plexus have valves, and the plexus acts as a small pump assisting the return of blood by the contractions of the lateral pterygoid muscle.

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