Parapharyngeal space

The parapharyngeal space, also known as the prestyloid parapharyngeal space, is one of the deep compartments of the head and neck. It consists largely of fat and other connective tissue.

The parapharyngeal space is shaped like a pyramid, inverted with its base at the skull base, with its apex inferiorly pointing to the greater cornu of the hyoid bone 2.

Lymph nodes and muscle are not included in the radiological definition of the parapharyngeal space.

The parapharyngeal space has complex fascial margins occupying the space between the muscles of mastication and the muscles of deglutition2:

The parapharyngeal space is crucial to the understanding of the deeps spaces of the neck, as it has direct relations with all but one of the other six deep compartments of the head and neck (the exception being the danger space, which is separated from the parapharyngeal space by the retropharyngeal space). 

The parapharyngeal space appears as a small triangular space (on axial imaging) with density/signal consistent with fat.  

Knowledge about the displacement patterns of fat within the parapharyngeal space will aid in the localization of lesions within adjacent spaces. A lesion arising in the: 

A lesion arising in the parapharyngeal space will displace the carotid space posteriorly and/or is completely surrounded by parapharyngeal space fat. Lesions include:

Anatomy: Head and neck
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Article information

rID: 10464
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Tag: refs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Prestyloid parapharyngeal space
  • Pre-styloid parapharyngeal space

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: in light blue on annotated MRI
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  • Case 1: parapharyngeal abscess
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  • Figure 2: annotated MRI
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  • Case 2: parapharyngeal space schwannoma
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