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Clin Anat. 2012 Oct;25(7):851-7. doi: 10.1002/ca.22124. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

Vertebral levels of key landmarks in the neck.

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Department of Anatomy, Otago School of Medical Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Vertebral levels of key landmarks in the neck are well documented in anatomy texts but are they accurate? This study aimed to investigate the vertebral levels of the hard palate, hyoid bone, thyroid cartilage, cricoid cartilage, and bifurcation of the common carotid artery (CCA) using computed tomography (CT). After excluding patients with distorting pathology, 52 CT scans of the neck from supine adults with a standardized head position (mean age 63 ± 17 years, range 30-94 years; 21 female) were available for analysis by dual consensus reporting. Only the vertebral level of the hard palate (C1) was consistent with contemporary descriptions. Other landmarks were located most frequently at the following vertebral levels: the center of the body of the hyoid bone at C4 (54% of cases); the superior limit of the laminae of the thyroid cartilage at C4 in women (60%) and C5 in men (52%) (P = 0.02); the inferior border of the cricoid cartilage in the midline anteriorly at C6 in women (37%) and C7 in men (47%) (P = 0.008); and the bifurcation of the left and right common carotid arteries at C3 (left 56%, right 62%). The bifurcation of the CCA was a mean of 1.6 ± 1.2 cm above the superior border of the thyroid laminae. Vertebral levels of key bony/cartilaginous structures in the neck differ from standard descriptions but in the absence of a standardized cervical axial plane have limited value and clinical utility.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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