Thoracic spine

The thoracic spine forms the middle part of the vertebral column. It extends from below C7 in the cervical spine to above L1 in the lumbar spine. There are 12 thoracic vertebra, termed T1-T12 (some older doctors and texts refer to the dorsal spine and D1-D12). 

The thoracic spine is unique due to its articulation with ribs via costal facets. The ribs restrict the movement of the thoracic spine somewhat. The thoracic spine is otherwise the most mobile of all spinal column segments.

For a basic anatomic description of the structure of typical vertebrae, see vertebrae.

Gross anatomy

Most thoracic vertebrae have similar features with the exception of some atypical ones. Relative to cervical and lumbar vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae have:

  • medium-sized, heart shaped vertebral bodies
  • medium-sized round vertebral canals
  • prominent transverse processes with costal facets
  • long spinous processes angulating downwards

For more detailed information, see typical thoracic vertebrae.

Anatomy: Spine
Anatomy: Thoracic
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Article information

rID: 43253
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Dorsal spine

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