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Vertebral foramen

Recommended video: Vertebral column [21:36]
Structure and function of the vertebral column.

The vertebral foramen is an opening within individual vertebrae of the vertebral column. Its anterior boundary is formed by the posterior aspect of the vertebral body and its posterolateral boundary is formed by the vertebral arch. It is a common feature of all vertebrae, however it varies in size and shape throughout the different regions of the vertebral column. In the cervical region the vertebral foramen is large and triangular shaped, in the thoracic region it is circular and smaller, whilst in the lumbar region it is triangular shaped and larger than that in the thoracic but smaller than in the cervical region.

When individual vertebrae are articulated together to form the vertebral column, the vertebral foramina combine to form the vertebral canal, through which the spinal cord passes. Running longitudinally along the length the vertebral canal are also a couple of ligaments. The posterior longitudinal ligament is found along the anterior aspect of the canal, attaching to the posterior aspect of the vertebral bodies (and intervertebral discs), whereas the the ligamentum flavum runs along the posterior aspect of the canal, connecting to the vertebral arches. 

Terminology English: Vertebral foramen
Latin: Foramen vertebrale
Structure Formed between the vertebral body and vertebral arch
Function Forms vertebral canal: houses and protects spinal cord

Learn more about the vertebral column with this study unit:

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