Asian Spine J.  2018 Feb;12(1):80-84. 10.4184/asj.2018.12.1.80.

Reliability and Accuracy of Palpable Anterior Neck Landmarks for the Identification of Cervical Spinal Levels

  • 1Department of Orthopaedic and Physical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Hadyai, Thailand.


STUDY DESIGN: A descriptive experimental study. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to describe the reliability and accuracy of palpable anterior neck landmarks (angle of the mandible, hyoid bone, thyroid cartilage, and cricoid cartilage) for the identification of cervical spinal levels in a slight neck-extended position as in anterior approach cervical spinal surgery. OVERVIEW OF LITERATURE: Standard, palpable anatomical landmarks for the identification of cervical spinal levels were described by Hoppenfeld using the midline palpable anterior structures (angle of the mandible [C2 body], hyoid bone [C3 body], thyroid cartilage [C4-C5 disc], cricoid cartilage [C6 body], and carotid tubercle [C6 body]) to determine the approximate level for skin incisions. However, in clinical practice, patients are positioned with a slight neck extension to achieve cervical lordosis. This positioning (neck extension) may result in changes in the locations of anatomical landmarks compared with those reported in previous studies.
This experimental study was conducted on 96 volunteers. Each volunteer was palpated for locating four anatomical landmarks three times by three different orthopedic surgeons. We collected data from the level of the vertebral body or the vertebral disc matching the surface anatomical landmarks from the vertical reference line.
Accuracy of the angle of the mandible located at the C2 vertebral body was 95.5%, the hyoid bone located at the C2/3 intervertebral disc was 51.7%, the thyroid cartilage located at the C4 vertebral body was 42%, and the cricoid cartilage located at the C5/6 intervertebral disc was 43.4%.
With the neck in a slightly extended position to achieve cervical lordosis, the angle of the mandible, the hyoid bone, the thyroid cartilage, and the cricoid cartilage were most often located at the C2 body, the C2/3 disc, the C4 body, and the C5/6 disc, respectively. The angle of the mandible and the hyoid bone are highly reliable surface anatomical landmarks for the identification of cervical spinal levels than the thyroid cartilage and the cricoid cartilage.


Cervical spine; Anatomic landmarks

MeSH Terms

Anatomic Landmarks
Cricoid Cartilage
Hyoid Bone
Intervertebral Disc
Thyroid Cartilage
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