thoracic vertebrae

Last reviewed 01/2018

The 12 thoracic vertebrae have common features that are best exemplifed by T5 to T8:

  • body:
    • squat, oval or heart-shaped
    • posterolaterally have costal facets:
      • oval facets near superior end of pedicle and transverse process junction
      • demifacets near inferior margin of same junction
  • vertebral foramina:
    • round
    • smaller than in cervical or lumbar regions
  • pedicles:
    • project from superior margin of posterior aspect of body
    • become larger with successive inferior vertebrae
    • have inferior vertebral notch on inferior margin
  • laminae:
    • project inferomedially to fuse at site of spinous process
    • each set of superior laminae overlap inferior counterparts due to inferior projection
  • spinous process:
    • projects posteroinferiorly
    • superior spinous process tends to overlap superior margin of spinous process below - trend most evident in middle of thoracic vertebrae
  • transverse process:
    • form at junction of pedicle with lamina
    • project posterolaterally and gently slope superiorly
    • anterior surface has concave, oval costal facet; on superior 10 ribs only
    • origin of articular processes
  • superior articular process is vertical and faces posterolaterally
  • inferior articular process is shorter but has a complementary orientation to superior counterpart

Atypical thoracic vertebrae are considered in the submenu.