levator veli palatini (anatomy)

Last reviewed 01/2018

Levator veli palatini is one of the muscles of the soft palate. It arises from the apex of the inferior surface of the petrous temporal bone and the adjoining medial part of the rim of cartilage surrounding the auditory tube. From this point it passes anteriorly and inferiorly as a cylindrical mass. It traverses the space between the two heads of palatopharyngeus to insert into the nasal surface of the palatine aponeurosis.

It is innervated by the pharyngeal plexus. The central nucleus ambiguus supplies the plexus through two pathways:

  • the pharyngeal branch of the vagus nerve (X)
  • the cranial part of the accessory nerve (XI)

The combined, bilateral action of levator veli palatini is on the:

  • soft palate - functionally helping to seal nasopharynx from oropharynx:
    • elevation
    • retraction
    • lateral deviation
  • auditory tube - opens orifice so helping to equalize pressure between the middle ear and nose