What Is the Fossa of Rosenmuller?

Andy Josiah

The fossa of Rosenmuller, or Rosenmuller’s fossa, is a long, deep, shallow and narrow depression found in one of the furthest sections of the nasal cavity. It sits behind the ostium, or opening, of the auditory tube. It is better known as the lateral pharyngeal recess due to its proximity to the pharynx, which is the section of the throat located between the mouth and nasal cavity. The fossa of Rosenmuller is also known as Rosenmuller’s cavity or Rosenmuller’s recess.

The fossa of Rosenmuller is responsible for linking the middle ear with the larynx.
The fossa of Rosenmuller is responsible for linking the middle ear with the larynx.

The pharyngeal recess gets its name from Johann Christian Rosenmuller, a German anatomist who lived between 1771 and 1820. Rosenmuller first described the pharyngeal recess in 1808 while he was teaching anatomy and surgery to students at the University of Leipzig. Other anatomical terms are also named after Rosenmuller based on his research, including Rosenmuller’s gland, which is the eyelid portion of the almond-shaped gland in the eye known as the lacrimal gland; and Rosenmuller’s organ, which is an alternate term for an organ located next to the fallopian tube and ovary known as the parovarium or epoophoron.

Rosenmuller’s fossa is responsible for linking the pharynx and the middle ear.
Rosenmuller’s fossa is responsible for linking the pharynx and the middle ear.

A lesser-known alternate term for the fossa of Rosenmuller is the fossa of Hercules or the Great Herculean Fossae. This was inspired by a physician who examined a young immigrant child at Ellis Island, which was a gateway for late-19th and early-20th century immigrants to the Unites States. Clearing a great amount of debris, mostly consisting of rotten feta cheese, from the boy’s fossae and noting his Greek heritage, the physician likened his treatment to the ninth task of Hercules. The assignment demanded that the Greek hero rescue a queen from the caves of Santorini.

This section of the nasal cavity has some considerable clinical significance. In medicine, it is linked to nasopharyngeal carcinoma. This is a cancer that affects the nasal cavity, pharynx and auditory tube. The exact site of occurrence is the retropharyngeal lymph node, or the node of Rouvier, which is a ball-shaped organ located at the base of the fossa of Rosenmuller.

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Discussion Comments


No matter what you call it, having clogged up Eustachian tubes is a miserable feeling. When that happens to me, it presses on my tonsils and makes my throat scratchy.

Conversely, if my throat is sore and my tonsils are swollen, it presses on my Eustachian tubes and makes my ears itch. It's a miserable feeling to have itching in what feels like the middle of your head, and not be able to scratch it. Hate that feeling.

"Fossa of Rosenmuller." Even if it's someone's name, I swear I don't know how doctors come up with some of these names. I think they do it deliberately to confuse patients.


I have had doctors refer to my Eustachian tubes, but *never* to the "fossa of Rosenmuller." I suppose this is because they would get a lot of blank looks if they called it that in front of a patient.

Hearing one has "considerable swelling in the fossa of Rosenmuller" is liable to make a patient very uncomfortable, until they find out it means they have an ear infection.

This is one of those cases when it's probably better to use the more common term, since most people have an idea of what -- and where -- their Eustachian tubes are, but have never heard (like I never heard) of the fossa of Rosenmuller. Good grief.

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