Superior Mediastinum and Root of Neck LO 1

1. Describe the thorax.

The thorax is a region of the torso bounded:

  • Superiorly by the first ribs and thoracic inlet,
  • Anteriorly by the sternum,
  • Laterally by the ribs and intercostal spaces,
  • Posteriorly by the vertebral column, and
  • Inferiorly by the diaphragm.

The superior portion of the thorax, the root of the neck, is a transitional area that is of both the neck and thorax, which serves as a conduit for viscera and neurovasculature common to these regions, and as a means of articulation with, and conveyance of, elements to the upper limbs.

The thorax may be conceptualized as three compartments. Laterally, there are pleural spaces containing the pulmonary cavities, the pleurae, and the lungs. Medial to the pleural cavities is the mediastinum, which contains the pericardium & heart, great vessels, portions of the airway, esophagus, lymphatics, and various neurovascular elements.