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Thoracic spine

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Identify and name each vertebra of the thoracic spine.
  2. Describe the features of a typical thoracic vertebra.
  3. Name the articulations of the thoracic vertebrae and their associated ligaments.

Watch video

The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae, designated T1-T12 from superior to inferior. Eight thoracic vertebrae, T2-T9 are the typical vertebrae, while the remaining four are atypical.

The twelve thoracic vertebrae display most of the features of a typical vertebra, including vertebral body, vertebral arch and several processes. Together they create an anteriorly concave curvature, which is referred to as a kyphosis.

The exclusive feature of the thoracic vertebrae is that each of them articulates with a pair of ribs at costovertebral joints and thus allow the formation of the rib cage - the skeletal framework of the thorax.

Watch the following video to take a closer look at the thoracic spine and compare its anatomical features with those of the lumbar spine.

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Browse atlas

Take a closer look at all of the features of the thoracic vertebrae in the gallery below.


Key points about the thoracic spine
Structure 12 thoracic vertebrae
: T2-T9
: T1, T10-T12
Typical vertebra Body, arch, costal facets, spinous process, transverse processes, superior and inferior articular processes
Atypical vertebra T1: Features one demifacet and one full facet on each side
: Single costal facets on each side
, T12: Single costal facets on each side, no costotransverse joints
Joints Intervertebral symphyses: Between bodies of contiguous vertebrae
Zygapophyseal joints
: Between articular processes of contiguous vertebrae
Costocorporeal joints
: Between costal facets/demifacets of vertebral bodies and head of ribs
Costotransverse joints
: Between costal facets on transverse processes and tubercles of ribs

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