The palatopharyngeus muscle lies within the soft palate and creates the palatopharyngeal arch together with the mucosa that covers it. The muscle is composed of two muscular bands or fasciculi, which are attached to the upper aspect of the palatine aponeurosis. Both fasciculi are separated by the levator veli palatini muscle.
- The anterior fasciculus is thicker, and originates from the posterior border of the hard palate and from the palatine aponeurosis.
- The posterior fasciculus is in contact with mucosa found in the pharyngeal aspect of the palate, and it joins the posterior fasciculus of the contralateral muscle in the midline.
The two fasciculi meet at the posterolateral border of the soft palate and are joined by fibers of the salpingopharyngeus muscle.
The palatopharyngeus extends laterally and downwards behind the tonsil, then descends posteromedially to the stylopharyngeus and in close proximity to it, and along with the stylopharyngeus ultimately attaches to the posterior border of the thyroid cartilage of the larynx. Some fibers of the palatopharyngeus also terminate on the side of the pharynx, by attaching to the pharyngeal fibrous tissue, while others cross the midline posteriorly and intersect with fibers of the contralateral muscle.
Action: by bilateral activation the muscles elevate the pharynx, pulls it forwards and medially, thus shortening it during swallowing. They also bring the palatopharyngeal arches closer together and draw them forwards.
Innervation: pharyngeal branch of the vagus nerve (CN X) via the pharyngeal plexus.
Blood supply: ascending palatine artery that arises from the facial artery, the greater palatine artery originating from the descending palatine artery (a terminal branch of the maxillary artery), and the pharyngeal branch of the ascending pharyngeal artery (a branch of the external carotid artery).