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Because both food and air pass through the pharynx, a flap of connective tissue called the epiglottis closes over the trachea when food is swallowed to prevent choking or aspiration. In humans the pharynx is important in vocalization.
The human pharynx is conventionally divided into three sections:
The nasopharynx lies behind the nasal cavity.
Postero-superiorly this extends from the level of the junction of the hard and soft palates to the base of skull, laterally to include the fossa of Rosenmuller.
The inferior wall consists of the superior surface of the soft palate.
The oropharynx lies behind the oral cavity.
The hypopharynx, laryngopharynx roughly corresponds to the levels between C3 to C6, it includes the pharyngo-esophageal junction (postcricoid area), the piriform sinus, and the posterior pharyngeal wall.
Like the oropharynx above it the hypopharynx serves as a passageway for food and air and is lined with a stratified squamous epithelium.
It lies directly anterior to the upright epiglottis and extends to the larynx, where the respiratory and digestive pathways diverge.
At that point the laryngopharynx is continuous with the esophagus posteriorly. The esophagus conducts food and fluids to the stomach; air enters the larynx anteriorly. During swallowing, food has the "right of way", and air passage temporarily stops.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pharynx". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|