Contemporary evaluation and management of parapharyngeal space neoplasms

J Laryngol Otol. 2013 Jun;127(6):550-5. doi: 10.1017/S0022215113000686. Epub 2013 Apr 10.


Objective: This review summarises the contemporary, multidisciplinary approach to managing parapharyngeal space neoplasms.

Overview: Parapharyngeal space neoplasms are uncommon head and neck tumours and are most often benign. Most tumours are of either salivary gland or neurogenic origin. Patients tend to be asymptomatic even when tumours reach large sizes. Patients may present with a mass in the pharynx or neck, although frequently the tumour is found incidentally on an imaging study. Due to the limitations of physical examination in this anatomical area, imaging studies are essential to the evaluation of parapharyngeal space neoplasms. Cytopathology may provide additional diagnostic information. Open biopsy is rarely necessary and can be hazardous. Treatment is primarily surgical, and various surgical approaches can be tailored for a given neoplasm. Recently, a trend toward observation of select patients with asymptomatic neurogenic tumours has been advocated.

Conclusion: The evaluation and management of parapharyngeal space tumours is best done by a multidisciplinary team. Treatment should be individualised, and the risks and benefits of surgical intervention need to be carefully weighed. Complications are best avoided by careful surgical planning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Head / anatomy & histology
  • Head / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Neck / anatomy & histology
  • Neck / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Nerve Tissue / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms, Nerve Tissue / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Nerve Tissue / therapy