Abstract In assessing new minimally invasive diagnostic techniques (duct endoscopy) and therapy (lithotripsy), it is of importance to know the true dimensions of the excretory ducts. Twenty-five ducts of the parotid gland and 20 ducts of the submandibular gland were examined histologically at different points of their anatomic course, and their in vivo diameters were evaluated with the use of a previously determined formalin-induced shrinking-factor. The mean diameter of Stensen's duct at four different points along its length ranged between 1.4 mm and 0.5 mm, with a maximum of 2.3 mm and a minimum of 0.1 mm, depending on the site. A narrowing at the middle of the duct was striking. In all preparations examined, the minimum width of the excretory duct was located at the ostium. In Wharton's duct the narrowest duct diameter was also identified at the ostium. The mean values for the duct diameters ranged between 1.5 mm and 0.5 mm. The largest duct diameter reached 2.2 mm; the smallest one, 0.2 mm. For diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, endoscopes, balloon catheters, and stone-extraction-baskets probably should, despite the extensibility of the duct, conform as much as possible to the physiologic duct widths. A diameter of 1.2 mm should be aimed at as an upper limit for these instruments. Our findings also suggest that, in the case of salivary stone lithotripsy, the best results will be achieved when the maximum size of stone fragments does not exceed 1.2 mm.