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Costovertebral joints

Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify the bones articulating at the costovertebral joints.
  2. Name the ligaments associated with the costovertebral joints.
  3. Master the movements and function of the costovertebral joints.

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Costovertebral joints refer to the articulations between the proximal ends of the ribs and their corresponding vertebrae. A costovertebral joint comprises two groups of synovial plane joints:

  • Costovertebral joint proper (also sometimes referred to as joint of head of rib/costocorporeal joint)
  • Costotransverse joint

Usually, the rib articulates with two adjacent vertebrae. These joints are called typical articulations. However, there are some exceptions that are referred to as atypical articulations; these are the joints that ribs 1, 10, 11, and 12 form with only one vertebra, or more specifically their corresponding vertebral body (T1, T10, T11, T12).

This video tutorial will provide you with a detailed overview of the bony features and ligaments that comprise the costovertebral joints.

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Browse atlas

Costovertebral joints

Costotransverse joints


Key points about costovertebral joints
Articular surfaces Costovertebral joint: Costal demifacets on vertebrae T1-T9, full costal facets on vertebrae T1, T10, T11, T12; heads of ribs 1-12
Costotransverse joint:
Tubercle of ribs 1-10, transverse costal facets on transverse processes of numerically equivalent vertebrae
Ligaments Costovertebral joint: Fibrous capsule, radiate, intraarticular ligaments (only joints 2-9)
Costotransverse joint:
Fibrous capsule, costotransverse, superior costotransverse, lateral costotransverse, accessory ligament (sometimes absent)
Movements Costovertebral joints: Internal rotation and elevation of head of rib
Costotransverse joints 1-6:
Internal rotation of neck of rib
Costotransverse joints 7-10:
Posteromedial translation of neck of rib

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