What is the anatomy of the carotid space relevant to deep neck infections?

Updated: Apr 30, 2020
  • Author: Alan D Murray, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Carotid space

  • The carotid (ie, visceral vascular) space is a potential space within the carotid sheath containing the carotid artery, internal jugular vein, vagus nerve, and sympathetic postganglionic fibers.

  • This space may be affected indirectly from spread of infection from the surrounding parapharyngeal space or directly by injection of drugs in those who abuse IV drugs. The resulting jugular vein thrombophlebitis sends septic emboli to the heart and lungs. The carotid artery may thrombose, form an aneurysm, or erode and rupture. Horner syndrome may occur because of involvement of the cervical sympathetics in this space.

  • Treatment may include anticoagulation and possibly the ligation of involved vessels.

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