Imaging of the larynx and hypopharynx

Eur J Radiol. 2008 Jun;66(3):460-79. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2008.03.027. Epub 2008 May 20.


The purpose of this article is to review currently used imaging protocols for the evaluation of pathologic conditions of the larynx and hypopharynx, to describe key anatomic structures in the larynx and hypopharynx that are relevant to tumor spread and to discuss the clinical role of Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and PET CT in the pretherapeutic workup and posttherapeutic follow-up of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of this region. A detailed discussion of the characteristic neoplastic submucosal invasion patterns, including extension to the preepiglottic space, paraglottic space and laryngeal cartilages and the implications of imaging for tumor staging and treatment planning is provided. The present article also reviews less common tumors of this region, such as chondrosarcoma, lymphoma, minor salivary gland tumors and lipoma. As the majority of non-neoplastic conditions do not require imaging the role of CT and MRI is discussed in some particular situations, such as to delineate cysts and laryngoceles, abscess formation in inflammatory conditions, to evaluate laryngeal and hypopharyngeal involvement in granulomatous and autoimmune diseases, and to evaluate the extent of laryngeal fractures due to severe blunt trauma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Media
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Hypopharyngeal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Hypopharynx / anatomy & histology
  • Hypopharynx / injuries
  • Hypopharynx / pathology
  • Laryngeal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Larynx / anatomy & histology
  • Larynx / injuries
  • Larynx / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pharyngeal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods


  • Contrast Media