What parts is the pharynx divided into?

Although with a different structure, the pharynx is an organ that can be found in many vertebrates and invertebrates. In humans it is considered part of the digestive and respiratory systems and is situated behind the mouth and nasal cavity, and above the esophagus and larynx.

Anatomically, it is divided into three structural parts:

Nasopharynx or nasopharynx oropharynx laryngopharynx


The nasopharynx, also called the rhinopharynx or upper pharynx, is the upper part of the pharynx that extends from the base of the skull to the top of the soft palate.

In the anterior part of the nasopharynx are the choanas or internal nostrils that communicate with the nasal cavities. On the side walls are the openings for the pharyngotympanic tubes or eustachian tubes. On the posterior wall are the pharyngeal tonsils and tubal tonsils, lymphoid tissue that is part of Waldeyer’s ring together with the palatine and lingual tonsils.

The nasopharynx has a pseudostratified ciliated cylindrical epithelium, unlike the rest of the pharynx, which has a stratified squamous epithelium.


The oropharynx, also called the middle pharynx or oropharynx, is the part of the pharynx located just behind the mouth or oral cavity. It extends from the uvula (the bell at the end of the mouth) to the hyoid bone. On the side walls are the palatine tonsils, easily visible when they become inflamed in cases of tonsillitis.

The lower part of the oropharynx is delimited by the epiglottis, a cartilaginous structure that closes the passage between the pharynx and the larynx when swallowing, that is, when swallowing food or liquids, allowing the digestive and respiratory tracts to safely diverge.

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The laryngopharynx, hypopharynx or lower pharynx is the part of the pharynx that extends from the epiglottis to the beginning of the esophagus and behind the entrance to the larynx that delimits the aryepiglottic folds. It is the part of the throat that connects with the esophagus, the digestive tract, and the larynx, the respiratory system.

The back of the laryngopharynx is continuous with the esophagus, the tube that directs food and liquid into the stomach. In the anterior part of the laryngopharynx is the opening to the pharynx where air enters on its way to the trachea and lungs. The epiglottis, which bounded the lower part of the oropharynx, moves closing the pharyngeal entrance during swallowing.

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