A study of the course of the internal carotid artery in the parapharyngeal space and its clinical importance

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2007 Dec;264(12):1483-9. doi: 10.1007/s00405-007-0398-6. Epub 2007 Jul 19.


The differences in the course and shape of the internal carotid artery (ICA) in the parapharyngeal space were investigated to determine the possible risks for serious hemorrhage during tonsillectomy, drainage of peritonsillar abscess, soft palate injuries, adenoidectomy and velopharyngeoplasty. The course of the ICA was studied in the parapharyngeal spaces of 50 adult cadavers. From each specimen, circumferential sections were obtained and they stained with hematoxylin-eosin and Verhoeff's elastic staining. The cervical course of the ICA showed no curvature in 70 cases; but in 25 cases it had a medial curve, and five cases showed kinking out of a total 100 dissected carotid sheaths. In two cases, kinking of the ICA was related to the pharyngeal wall. The histological examination of all kinking specimens demonstrated depletion and decreasing muscle tissue in tunica media and an increase was observed in vasa vasorum numbers in the tunica adventitia of ICA. The dissections and integrity losses were seen in tunica media and tunica adventitia. The vessel wall of histological structure change were detected in kinking specimens and lays the groundwork for the vessel wall to get easily harmed or torn either directly or indirectly by decreasing the elasticity and soundness of the wall. The transposition of the ICA artery in submucous position becomes important for otorhinolaryngologists when its aberrant course causes a widening in the retropharyngeal or parapharyngeal tissues and an impression on the pharyngeal wall. Curving and kinking of the ICA can constitute a risk factor for acute hemorrhage in routine surgical procedures, which are performed by inexperienced surgeons.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cadaver
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / pathology*
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / abnormalities*
  • Dissection
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck
  • Otorhinolaryngologic Surgical Procedures
  • Torsion Abnormality / pathology