Anatomy of the larynx and trachea

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Anatomy of the larynx and trachea

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Figure 1: Cartilaginous skeleton of the Larynx and Trachea A. anterior view and B. posterior view.
Figure 2: Cartilaginous skeleton of the Larynx and Trachea A. lateral view and B. with hemisected thyroid cartilage.
Figure 3: Neurovasculature of the Larynx and trachea A. Arteries and nerves and B. veins.
Figure 4: the Laryngeal cavity, mid-sagittal view.
Figure 5: Anatomy of the vocal Ligaments, superior view A. superficial and B. deep.

Cricothyroid muscle
  • anterolateral part of the cricoid cartilage
  • inferior margin and inferior horn of the thyroid cartilage.
  • Superior laryngeal nerve
  • External laryngeal nerve
  • tilts/pulls prominence of thyroid cartilage anteriorly and inferiorly
  • elongates and tightens vocal ligaments
  • raises the pitch of voice
Thyro-arytenoid muscle
  • lower half of the posterior aspect of the thyroid cartilage and cricothyroid ligament
  • anterolateral arytenoid surface
  • Recurrent laryngeal nerve via inferior laryngeal nerve
  • pulls the arytenoid cartilages anteriorly
  • lowers the pitch of the voice
Lateral cricoarytenoid muscle
  • arch of cricoid cartilage
  • vocal process of arytenoid cartilage
  • pulls the muscular processes of arytenoid cartilages anteriorly and rotates them to adduct the vocal folds
Transverse arytenoid
  • ipsilateral arytenoid cartilage
  • contralateral arytenoid cartilage
  • pulls the arytenoid cartilages together causing adduction of vocal folds
  • reflexive sphincter
Oblique arytenoid
Posterior cricoarytenoid
  • posterior surface of the cricoid cartilage lamina
  • vocal process of arytenoid cartilage
  • rotates the vocal processes of the arytenoid cartilages laterally to abduct the vocal folds 
  • widens the rima glottidis
Vocalis muscle
  • lateral surface of the vocal process of the arytenoid cartilage
  • ipsilateral vocal ligament
  • tenses and relaxes the vocal ligaments and folds
Trachealis muscle
  • Spans posterior gaps in tracheal ring
  • para-sympathetic ganglia
  • allows expansion of the esophagus during swallowing


The cervical viscera are composed of three layers named after their primary function.

The most superficial layer is the endocrine layer which contains the thyroid and parathyroid glands, then there’s the respiratory layer which contains the larynx and trachea and finally, the deepest layer is the alimentary layer which contains the pharynx and esophagus.

Focusing on the respiratory layer of the cervical viscera, this contains the larynx and trachea that routes air to the lungs, and gives everyone their own unique voice and saying that just made me aware of my own voice on this video recording!

So, let’s start with the larynx which is responsible for voice production and maintaining a patent airway.

The larynx is located in the anterior neck at the level of the bodies of the C3 to C6 vertebrae and connects the inferior part of the pharynx with the trachea. It also contains the vocal cords, or vocal folds, so it’s responsible for voice production.

Now, the larynx has a skeleton which is hardly a skeleton; rather, it’s formed of nine cartilages: thyroid, cricoid and epiglottic cartilages which are single and arytenoid, corniculate and cuneiform cartilages which come in pairs of two.


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