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Free Content Fat Pads of the Head and Neck: An Imaging Review

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A natural aid to the detection and mapping of head and neck pathology is the normal fatty tissue planes in the head and neck. Many critical sites in the head and neck, including at the foramina of most cranial nerves and the submucosal spaces of the cervical aerodigestive tract, normally contain fatty tissue, therefore, inspection of these “fat pads” is an important task for the radiologist when characterizing head and neck diseases. The purpose of this article was to review clinically relevant fat pads and fat planes in the head and neck. We discussed fat pads at the skull base (pterygopalatine fossa, orbital fissures, trigeminal fat pad, stylomastoid foramen), fat pads in the face (periantral fat, mandibular foramen, buccal fat pad), the parapharyngeal space, the retropharyngeal space, and the submucosal spaces of the supraglottic larynx (preepiglottic and paraglottic fat). The anatomy and pertinent pathologic entities were described for each site. A concluding discussion reviewed technical issues that pertain to the imaging of these sites.

Learning Objective: Understand the anatomy and pathologic significance of head and neck fat pads.
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Keywords: PPF = pterygopalatine fossa; T1WI = T1-weighted imaging

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2018

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  • Neurographics is the peer-reviewed, bimonthly educational journal of the American Society of Neuroradiology. The journal comprises articles selected from material presented at the ASNR Annual Meeting. Neurographics also publishes other high-quality submissions that are primarily educational and have a high emphasis on a pictorial approach. Neurographics offers CME credit for reading review articles and completing quiz-based self-assessment activities. CME credit for review articles may be claimed up to 3 years after an article's publication date. Visit to view all available CME courses.
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