Injury to the internal carotid artery during procedures performed in the tonsillar fossa can be catastrophic. Tonsillectomy or uvulopalatopharyngoplasty was performed on 32 patients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania or the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Using Doppler ultrasonography, the course of the internal carotid artery in the postsurgical tonsillar fossa was mapped. The results indicate that, in the majority of patients, the internal carotid artery is located between 20% and 60% of the total width across the tonsillar fossa, as measured from the posterior pillar. Appreciation of the surgical anatomy of the tonsillar fossa with respect to the internal carotid artery should contribute to improved intraoperative judgment and further limit the risk of vascular injury during oropharyngeal procedures.
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