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Thyroid and parathyroid glands

Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Describe the anatomy of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
  2. Understand the neurovascular supply of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
  3. Name the functions of thyroid and parathyroid glands.

Watch videos

The thyroid and parathyroid glands are endocrine organs, located in the neck, anterior and lateral to the trachea and larynx. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormones regulating metabolism. It consists of two lobes, an isthmus and pyramidal lobe, all of which are supplied by the superior and inferior thyroid arteries. Venous drainage occurs via the superior, middle, and inferior thyroid veins. The thyroid gland receives sympathetic and parasympathetic innervation from the three cervical sympathetic ganglia and branches of the vagus nerve, respectively.

The parathyroid glands, located on the back of the thyroid gland, participate in regulating blood calcium levels. Their neurovascular supply is similar to that of the thyroid gland.

The following video will provide you with an overview of the thyroid and parathyroid glands, and their neurovascular supply.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the video, test your acquired knowledge with our quiz.

For a broader overview, take our custom quiz about the structures of the neck, and choose the topics or individual terms that you want to be tested on.

Browse atlas

Explore the thyroid and parathyroid glands as well as surrounding structures in the following atlas gallery:


Key points about the thyroid and parathyroid glands
Parts Thyroid gland:
Left and right lobes, isthmus, pyramidal lobe (variably present)

Parathyroid gland:

Four lentil-shaped glands located on back of each lobe of thyroid gland
Neurovascular supply Thyroid gland:
Arterial supply: Superior thyroid artery (from external carotid artery) and inferior thyroid artery (from thyrocervical trunk), thyroid ima artery may be present occasionally
Venous drainage: Superior, middle and inferior thyroid veins which form thyroid plexus
Innervation: Three cervical sympathetic ganglia, external branch of superior laryngeal nerve and recurrent laryngeal nerve

Parathyroid glands:

Arterial supply: Inferior thyroid artery
Venous drainage: Thyroid plexus
Innervation: Three cervical sympathetic ganglia
Functions Thyroid gland:
Produces thyroid hormones and regulates metabolism

Parathyroid gland:

Participate in regulating blood calcium levels

Well done!

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