Radiographic review of anatomy and pathology of the masticator space: what the emergency radiologist needs to know

A Correction to this article was published on 14 March 2020

This article has been updated


The differential diagnosis of a masticator space (MS) lesion is broad, owing in part to the multiple structures contained within such a small region. It is also because the MS is adjacent to many of the other deep spaces within the head and neck, which can act as gateways for disease spread. Therefore, emergency radiologists must be familiar with anatomy of the MS, as well as adjacent spaces in order to provide an accurate diagnosis to the referring clinician. This article illustrates the anatomy and common pathologies within the MS using a case-based multimodality approach. Common masticator space pathologies can be categorized into inflammatory/infectious, neoplastic, and vasoformative lesions. Important imaging features of MS lesions and patterns of disease spread will be discussed, with the aim of making this complex deep space more approachable in the emergent setting.

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Change history

  • 14 March 2020

    Unfortunately, the original publication of this article contained a mistake in Fig. 7a. The correct figure is presented here. The original article has been corrected.



Masticator space


Neurofibromatosis type 1


Squamous cell carcinoma


Computerized tomography


Magnetic resonance imaging


Vascular malformation


Arteriovenous malformation


Glucose transporter type 1


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We would like to acknowledge Sarah Klingenberger for her invaluable contribution to our figures for this manuscript.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Komal A. Chughtai.

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The original version of this article was revised: Unfortunately, the original publication of this article contained a mistake in Figure 7a.

Key points

• Anatomy of the MS is important for understanding spread of disease.

• Teeth and submandibular/parotid glands are a common source of MS infections.

• Malignancy can spread into the MS via direct or perineural spread, and can also arise in the MS de novo.

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Chughtai, S., Chughtai, K.A., Montoya, S. et al. Radiographic review of anatomy and pathology of the masticator space: what the emergency radiologist needs to know. Emerg Radiol 27, 329–339 (2020).

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  • Masticator space
  • Mandible
  • Muscles of mastication
  • Trigeminal nerve
  • Perineural spread