European Spine Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 8, pp 991–995 | Cite as

Surgical anatomy of the cervical sympathetic trunk during anterolateral approach to cervical spine

  • Erdinc Civelek
  • Aykut Karasu
  • Tufan Cansever
  • Kemal Hepgul
  • Talat Kiris
  • Akın Sabancı
  • Ali Canbolat
Original Article


The sympathetic trunk is sometimes damaged during the anterior and anterolateral approach to the cervical spine, resulting in Horner’s syndrome. No quantitative regional anatomy in fresh human cadavers describing the course and location of the cervical sympathetic trunk (CST) and its relation to the longus colli muscle (LCM) is available in the literature. The aims of this study are to clearly delineate the surgical anatomy and the anatomical variations of CST with respect to the structures around it and to develop a safer surgical method that will diminish the potential risk of CST injury. In this study, 30 cadavers from the Department of Forensic Medicine were dissected to observe the surgical anatomy of the CST. The cadavers used in this study were fresh cadavers chosen at 12–24 h postmortem. The levels of superior and intermediate ganglions of cervical sympathetic chain were determined. The distance of the sympathetic trunk from the medial border of LCM at C6, the diameter of the CST at C6 and the length and width of the superior and intermediate (middle) cervical ganglion were measured. Cervical sympathetic chain is located posteromedial to carotid sheath and just anterior to the longus muscles. It extends longitudinally from the longus capitis to the longus colli over the muscles and under the prevertebral fascia. The average distance between the CST and medial border of the LCM at C6 is 11.6 ± 1.6 mm. The average diameter of the CST at C6 is 3.3 ± 0.6 mm. Superior ganglion of CSC in all dissections was located at the level of C4 vertebra. The length and width of the superior cervical ganglion were 12.5 ± 1.5 and 5.3 ± 0.6 mm, respectively. The location of the intermediate (middle) ganglion of CST showed some variations. The length and width of the middle cervical ganglion were 10.5 ± 1.3 and 6.3 ± 0.6 mm, respectively. The CST’s are at high risk when the LC muscle is cut transversely, or when dissection of the prevertebral fascia is performed. Awareness of the CST’s regional anatomy may help the surgeon to identify and preserve it during anterior cervical surgeries.


Anatomy Anterolateral approach Cervical spine Cervical sympathetic trunk 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erdinc Civelek
    • 1
  • Aykut Karasu
    • 1
  • Tufan Cansever
    • 1
  • Kemal Hepgul
    • 1
  • Talat Kiris
    • 1
  • Akın Sabancı
    • 1
  • Ali Canbolat
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryIstanbul University, Istanbul Faculty of MedicineIstanbulTurkey

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