Larynx

The larynx is the upper aspect of the respiratory system and is a conduit to the lungs. The larynx runs parallel to the pharynx and is also lined with squamous epithelium. The larynx has several primary functions: airway protection, voice production and air transfer to the lungs. The larynx is divided into three segments, the Supraglottic Larynx, the Glottic Larynx and the Subglottic Larynx. Tumors that occur within each of these anatomic locations is staged differently based on the AJCC.

Phonation Muscles:

    • Tensors: Cricothyroid Muscles, Thyroarytneoid Muscles

    • Adductors: Lateral Cricoarytenoid Muscles, Arytenooid Muscles

Respiratory Muscles:

  • Posterior Cricoarytenoid Muscles

The larynx is built on a skeletal framework of bone and cartilage.

Unpaired Bone/Cartilage

  • Hyoid Bone

  • Epiglottis

  • Thyroid Cartilage

  • Cricoid Cartilage

Paired Cartilage

  • Arytenoid Cartilage

  • Corniculate Cartilage

  • Cuneiform Cartilage

Ossification of the thyroid cartilage increases with age, and is typically symmetric. Cartilaginous (non-ossified) segments can be confused with destruction.


The supraglottic larynx is the most superior in location and the largest of the 3 segments of the larynx. It is separated from the oropharynx by the epiglottis and from the hypopharynx by the aryepiglottic folds. It consists of the 5 following subsites:

  • Suprahyoid Epiglottis

  • Infrahydoid Epiglottis

  • Aryepiglottic folds

  • False Vocal Folds

  • Arytenoid

The glottic larynx is that portion of the larynx located at the level of the vocal cords. It is separated from the supraglottic larynx by the laryngeal ventricle.

The vocal cords are mucosa lined ligaments called the vocal ligaments and thyroarytenoid muscles. The

The subglottic larynx begins 1 cm below the level of the laryngeal ventricle and extends inferiorly to the inferior border of the cricoid.

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