Spaces of the Head and Neck

This video describes the soft tissue spaces of the head and neck, including common normal anatomy and structures found in each region as well as potential pathology that can commonly arise there. By knowing the spaces, you can be more prepared to determine what diseases might occur there and formulate a better differential diagnosis.


Masticator space. Contains the muscles of mastication, the mandible, branches of the trigeminal nerve, lymph nodes, and minor salivary glands. 

Parotid space. Contains deep and superficial portions of the parotid gland, branches of the facial nerve, lymph nodes, the retromandibular vein, and the external carotid artery and its branches.

Carotid space. Contains the carotid sheath, internal jugular vein, cranial nerves IX-VI, sympathetic nervous system branches, and lymph nodes.

Parapharyngeal space. Predominantly composed of fat, with minor salivary glands and lymph nodes. Most useful for how it is displaced (medially if it is in the masticator space, carotid space, or parotid space, or laterally if it is a mucosal lesion)

Retropharyngeal space. Contains, fat, lymph nodes, and minor salivary glands. 

Perivertebral/vertebral space. Contains muscles, the vertebral bodies, fat, blood vessels, and nerve roots.   

Infrahyoid visceral space. Contains the thyroid and parathyroid gland, the esophagus, and the trachea. Vessels and nerves are also found here.

Check out more of our content on head and neck imaging by seeing all H&N related posts or on the H&N Imaging Topic page.


See this and other videos on our Youtube channel