oesophagus (cervical section, anatomy)

Last reviewed 01/2018

The cervical or neck section of the oesophagus passes from the inferior margin of the cricoid cartilage to its point of passage through the superior thoracic aperture. This is roughly the region in front of the C6 and C7 vertebrae. It is continuous with the pharynx superiorly where the inner layers of cricopharyngeus contribute to the circular muscle layer of the oesophagus and the longitudinal muscle layer is joined to the cricoid and arytenoid cartilages.

During this course it slopes slightly to the left from the midline and its relations are:

  • posterior: prevertebral layer of the deep cervical fascia anterior to the vertebral column, anterior longitudial ligament and longus colli muscle
  • anterior: connective tissue connecting to the trachea, recurrent laryngeal nerves within groove between oesophagus and trachea
  • lateral:
    • on both sides:
      • inferior thyroid artery in contact with superior oesophagus
      • common carotid artery
      • inferiorly, posteroinferior lobes of thyroid gland
    • inferiorly and on right: cervical pleura
  • inferiorly and on left: thoracic duct interposed between oesophagus and cervical pleura