Levator veli palatini muscle
Levator veli palatini is a paired cylindrical muscle situated lateral to the choanae of nasal cavity, spanning from the petrous part of temporal bone to the superior part of palatine aponeurosis. Together with tensor veli palatini, palatoglossus, palatopharyngeus muscles and musculus uvulae, levator veli palatini comprises the soft palate.
The main action of levator veli palatini is the elevation of soft palate. Together with the actions of other muscles of the soft palate, this action of levator veli palatini participates in the act of swallowing.
|Petrous part of temporal bone, inferior/cartilaginous part of auditory tube
|Elevates soft palate (during swallowing)
|Pharyngeal plexus (CN X)
|Ascending palatine artery
In this article, we will discuss the anatomy and function of the levator palatini muscle.
Origin and insertion
Levator veli palatini is divided into superior and inferior parts based on its origin points. The superior part originates from the inferior surface of the petrous part of temporal bone, anteriorly to the inferior opening of carotid canal and posteriorly to the origin of tensor tympani muscle. The inferior part of the muscle originates from the inferior part of medial lamina of cartilage of auditory (Eustachian) tube and from the vaginal process of sphenoid bone.
From these origin sites, the muscle fibers course inferomedially towards the soft palate. After passing through a narrow space between the two layers of palatopharyngeus muscle, levator veli palatini muscle inserts onto the superior aspect of palatine aponeurosis where it interlaces with the fibers of its contralateral counterpart.
Levator veli palatini runs anteriorly to salpingopharyngeus and medially to the upper aspect of superior pharyngeal constrictor muscle. Ascending pharyngeal artery that supplies the soft palate is located in the narrow space between the superior constrictor and levator veli palatini muscles.
The superior part of the muscle lies posteromedial to tensor veli palatini muscle and lateral to tubal tonsils and cartilaginous part of auditory tube. The distal part of the muscle separates the palatopharyngeus muscle into two layers, through which it reaches its insertion.
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The blood supply for levator veli palatini muscle comes from:
- Ascending palatine artery, a branch of facial artery
- Descending palatine artery, a branch of maxillary artery
The venous blood is first drained into pterygoid plexus via ascending palatine and descending palatine veins. From here the blood is drained into the internal jugular vein.
Levator veli palatini elevates the soft palate and pulls it slightly backwards. This action together with the action of musculus uvulae closes the passage between the nasopharynx and oropharynx, facilitating the act of swallowing and preventing the food from passing to the nasopharynx.
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