The constrictor pharyngis superior muscle is a skeletal muscle of the pharynx and consists of four parts. He closes the entrance to the nose when swallowing. A soft palate palsy and certain neurological disorders can interfere with the closure and contribute to swallowing disorders.

What is the musculus constrictor pharyngis superior?

The constrictor pharyngis superior or upper pharyngeal constrictor is located in the pharynx and, along with other muscles, is responsible for narrowing the pharynx. This process is required during swallowing so that no fluid or food enters the connection to the nose.

The pharynx musculature possesses two further Schnürmuskeln beyond the Musculus constrictor pharyngis superior, in particular the middle and lower Schwundschnürer (Musculus constrictor pharyngis medius and Musculus constrictor pharyngis inferior). They arise during embryonic development from the third, fourth and sixth gill arch. For this reason, the constrictor pharyngis muscle does not form a uniform tissue, but has the characteristic tripartite division. Like the other pharyngeal muscles, the constrictor pharyngis superior belongs to the striated muscle of the human body.

Anatomy & Construction

The basic structure of the constrictor pharyngis superior muscle forms a quadrangular surface and can be structurally subdivided into four areas, each of which has a different origin. The only attachment of the pharyngeal muscle is at the pharyngeal (raphe pharyngis), where the constrictor pharyngis medius muscle and the constrictor pharyngis inferior muscle end.

The pars pterygopharyngeal artery of the constrictor pharyngis superior muscle originates from the pterygoid bony sphenoidal pelvis, which belongs to the skull base and is there associated with the sphenoid or wasp bone (sphenoid bone). In contrast, the pars buccopharyngeal originates from the pterygomandibular raphe, which lies adjacent to the pterygoid pterygoid. On the other side of the raphe pterygomandibularis, on the other hand, is the linea mylohyoidea, which belongs to the lower jaw (mandible). The third part of the musculus constrictor pharyngis superior, the pars mylopharyngea, originates from the linea mylohyoidea. The fourth and final section of the pharyngeal muscle is the glossopharyngeal pars. Its origin is on the transversus linguae muscle, which is a tongue muscle.

The constrictor pharyngis superior receives nerve signals from the ninth cranial nerve (glossopharyngeal nerve) as well as from the tenth cranial nerve (vagus nerve). Fibers from both nerves meet in a network of nerves of the pharynx, the pharyngeal plexus.

Function & Tasks

The purpose of the Constrictor pharyngis superior muscle is to close the nasopharynx during swallowing, so that no fluid or food can penetrate, and instead the oral contents completely land in the esophagus. Nerve fibers from the pharyngeal plexus give the signal to the constrictor pharyngis superior to contract.

When the pharyngeal muscle tightens, a ridge forms in the nasopharynx (epipharynx). This bead is also known as Passavant's Ringwulst. The Constrictor pharyngis superior muscle pulls the Passavantian ring in the direction of the soft palate, with the soft palate in a horizontal position. It is responsible for the positioning of the soft palate lifter (musculus levator veli palatini) and the soft palate tensioner (tensor veli palatini muscle). The larynx must also be closed during swallowing - this task is performed by the thyrohyoid muscle.

When swallowing, many muscles have to co-ordinate. The control is based on an area of ​​the brain, which is also known as a swallowing center because of its function and lies in the extended medulla (medulla oblongata). The swallow center does not form a tissue structure that is anatomically clearly defined, but a functional network of nerves that is spread over different parts of the brain. Some parts of the swallowing center are also in the cerebrum.


During swallowing, the purpose of the Constrictor pharyngeal superior muscle is to form the Passavantian ring bulge and pull it towards the soft palate. The process helps to close the access to the nose. In the context of a paralysis of the soft palate this process can be disturbed.

As a cause for the Gaumensegellähmung comes the infectious disease Diphtherie into question. It is a bacterial disease affecting the upper respiratory tract. Complaints of swallowing and sore throat usually appear as first signs, along with fatigue, malaise and fever. In the throat, diphtheria typically develops a coating that has a white to yellowish color.

In addition, the lymph nodes can swell. In addition to the Gaumensegellähmung other complications such as Krupp and myocarditis are possible. As a result of the paralysis of the soft palate, the upper pharyngeal lobe and the soft palate lifters and tensioners can no longer close the upper pharynx and liquid or food can penetrate into the nasal cavity.

A paresis of the soft palate, however, does not have to go back to diphtheria. In addition, it may be due to damage to the vagus nerve, as is possible in the context of certain brainstem syndromes. These include Wallenberg syndrome and Jackson syndrome, both of which can occur as a result of a stroke. A stroke or cerebral infarction is due to a circulatory disorder in the brain, often because of the (partial) occlusion of a supplying artery. Parts of the brain are undersupplied with stroke and can irreversibly be damaged if the state of deficiency persists too long.

Neurodegenerative diseases also damage the swallow center in some cases. Corresponding symptoms are common in multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's syndrome. Injuries and tumors are also considered lesions of the swallowing center. However, nerve damage may also occur only during the course of the innervating nerve tracts, for example on the pharyngeal plexus.

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