The hyoepiglottic ligament is a dense, connective tissue structure located in the neck’s sagittal section, specifically in the left half of the larynx, or voice box. It is an elastic-like band that connects the epiglottis and the hyoid bone. The epiglottis is a flap of cartilage (strong but flexible tissue) at the top of the windpipe, or trachea. The hyoid bone is located in the neck, below the lower jaw. It anchors the tongue.
The hyoepiglottic ligament extends from the epiglottis’s anterior (front) surface to the hyoid bone’s upper border. The hyoepiglottic ligament protects the preepiglottic and paraglottic spaces, thus separating the tongue base and the supraglottic larynx, which is the top portion of the larynx and includes the epiglottis and part of the aryepiglottic folds. This ligament serves as a barrier for the preepiglottic space. It blocks off the area from carcinomas — cancer affecting the skin or tissue that covers organs. As a result, suprahyoid carcinomas are rather rare.
Research shows that the age-related hyoepiglottic ligament changes are associated with the epiglottis’s function during respiration and swallowing. These changes can to lead to diseases such as obstructive sleep apnea (abnormal stopping and starting of breathing during sleep), acquired laryngomalacia in older individuals (a softening of the larynx), and aspiration (when liquid or food is inhaled into the airways).
The hyoepiglottic ligament also plays a role in supraglottic cancer. In such cases, either a supra- or subhyoid supraglottic larygotomy or laryngectomy is required to remove the cancerous cells; in this procedure, the hyoepiglottic ligament is split at its origin.