palatopharyngeus muscle (anatomy)

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Palatopharyngeus is one of the muscles of the muscular palate. It arises from two parts within the palate:

  • anterior part:
    • from posterior border of hard palate and superior surface of palatine aponeurosis
    • joins muscle fibres from the contralateral side in the midline
    • passes between tensor and levator veli palatini
  • posterior part:
    • arises from palatine aponeurosis
    • separated from anterior part by levator veli palatini

At the posterior and lateral border of the palate, on each side the posterior and anterior fasciculi unite. Fibres descend laterally to insert into the superior border of the thyroid cartilage. Some fibres unite with the contralateral side superior to this insertion; this muscular prominence has been contentiously termed "Passavant's Ridge".

It is innervated by the pharyngeal branch of the vagus nerve (CN X) with motor fibres originating in the cranial accessory nerve (CN XI).

Palatopharyngeus acts to draw the pharynx and larynx superiorly, anteriorly and medially. This action is one of the requisites of swallowing.

With overlying mucous membrane, palatopharyngeus forms the pharyngeal arch on each side.

Last reviewed 01/2018