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Anatomy Atlases: Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus III: Nervous System: Cranial Nerves and Ganglia: Pterygopalatine (Sphenopalatine) Ganglion

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus III: Nervous System: Cranial Nerves and Ganglia

Pterygopalatine (Sphenopalatine) Ganglion

Ronald A. Bergman, PhD
Adel K. Afifi, MD, MS
Ryosuke Miyauchi, MD

Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed

Several variations in the branches of this ganglion have been reported. The lesser palatine nerve, which is ordinarily one of the descending (palatine) branches of the ganglion and supplies the mucous membrane of the soft palate and tonsils, may be absent.

There may be a reversal in the course of the left and right nasopalatine nerves through the foramina of Scarpa (greater and lesser palatine): the left nerve passes through the posterior (instead of the anterior) foramen and the right nerve passing through the anterior (instead the posterior) foramen.

Both nerves belong to the internal branches of the sphenopalatine ganglion. In addition to the usual ascending, descending, and internal branches of the ganglion, branches have been described passing to the abducens nerve, ciliary ganglion, or optic nerve, or, through the sheath of the optic nerve.


Cushing, H. (1904) The sensory distribution of the fifth cranial nerve. Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin 15:213-232.

Huber, G.C., Ed. (1930) Piersol's Human Anatomy, 9th ed., L.B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia.

Schaefer, E.A., Symington, J. and T.H. Bryce, Eds. (1915) Quain's Anatomy, 11th ed., Longmans, Green, and T.H. Bryce., London.

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