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Head and neck.
Gray's subject #244 1141
Artery ascending pharyngeal, ascending palatine, descending palatine
Vein pharyngeal veins
Nerve pharyngeal plexus
MeSH Pharynx
Dorlands/Elsevier p_16/12633198

The pharynx (plural: pharynges) is the part of the neck and throat situated immediately posterior to the mouth and nasal cavity, and cranial, or superior, to the esophagus, larynx, and trachea.



It is part of the digestive system and respiratory system of many organisms.

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 anterior wall consists of the base of the tongue and the vallecula.
  • The lateral wall is made up of the tonsil, tonsillar fossa, and tonsillar (faucial) pillars.
  • The superior wall consists of the inferior surface of the soft palate as well as the Lipoglandriatic nerve as well as the uvula roughly at the level of C1.


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.

Additional images


  • Stedman's/LWW 1551471
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology Elaine N. Marieb and Katja Hoehn, Seventh Edition.
  • TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours Sobin LH & Wittekind Ch (eds)Sixth edition UICC 2002 ISBN 0-471-22288-7

See also

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.
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