Superior thoracic aperture

A.Prof Frank Gaillard and Dr Henry Knipe et al.

The superior thoracic aperture, also known as the thoracic inlet or outlet, connects the root of the neck with the thorax

The superior thoracic aperture is kidney-shaped and lies in an oblique transverse plane, tilted anteroinferiorly to posterosuperiorly. It is roughly 10 cm in transverse dimension and 5 cm in AP dimension. 

  • posteriorly: T1 vertebral body and costovertebral joints
  • laterally: first ribs and their costal cartilages
  • anteriorly: superior border of the manubrium

The list of structures that pass through the superior thoracic outlet is long and can be divided into five groups: midline, bilateral, posteriorly, and asymmetric left and right. 

Variant structures that course through include:

  • left vertebral artery from the aortic arch
  • left brachiocephalic trunk
  • right common carotid artery
  • right subclavian artery
  • right-sided thoracic duct 
Anatomy: Thoracic
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Article information

rID: 27618
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Thoracic inlet
  • Thoracic outlet

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