The pharynx is the superior dilated part of the alimentary tract that connects the nasal and oral cavities to the esophagus.

Gross anatomy

It is composed of three parts:


The are two groups of muscles in the wall of the pharynx, the external circular layer and the internal longitudinal layer.

The external circular layer is composed of the three constrictor muscles:

The internal longitudinal layer is composed of the three paired muscles:


The muscles of the pharynx are supplied by the pharyngeal plexus, a network of nerves from pharyngeal branches of the vagus and glossopharyngeal nerves.

Sensory innervation is primarily from the glossopharyngeal nerve with a few notable exceptions:

Blood supply

Numerous branches anastomose in the pharynx, providing it with a rich arterial supply:

Veins of the same name drain either into the pterygoid venous plexus or directly into the internal jugular vein.

Lymphatic drainage

Most lymph drains back to the retropharyngeal nodes.

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