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Head and Neck

Examination of the head and neck highlights the overlap between regional and systemic examination. It is part of the general examination (diagnostic features of a number of syndromes, the general mental state, mucous membranes, state of hydration, weight loss, oral hygiene, fetor and lymphadenopathy), the alimentary system (mouth, pharynx, teeth, tongue, salivary glands), the respiratory system (upper respiratory tract and trachea), the cardiovascular system (the great vessels of the neck), the musculoskeletal system (muscles of mastication and those for head and neck movements), endocrine system (general features and thyroid gland), hematological system (cervical lymph nodes) and the central nervous system (brain and cranial nerve).

As well as incorporating these medical specialties, the head and neck is examined by a number of surgical groups: head and neck surgeons manage predominantly malignancy, but also thyroid and salivary gland pathology; dentists and faciomaxillary surgeons relate to the teeth and jaws; ophthalmic surgeons manage disease of the orbit and eye; neurosurgeons diseases of the brain and cranial nerves; while the ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeons overlap the other groups.

In this text, after the initial anatomy, the cranial nerves are used to demonstrate head and neck examination, including the special sensory organs, followed by a general description of the neck, including muscle tables, and the thyroid gland. [The cervical nodes, the mouth, salivary glands, oropharynx and airway are considered with other systems.]