Bones of the Thorax
The bones of the thorax can be split into 3 main groups – the ribs, the sternum and the thoracic spine.
The ribcage consists of 12 paired bones which function to protect internal thoracic organs whilst also aiding breathing. All ribs have a posterior articulation with the vertebral column, and anteriorly they end as costal cartilage. Ribs may either be typical or atypical in structure. Typically, ribs have a head, neck and body however atypical ribs (ribs 1, 2, 10 and 12) show variations to these core structures – for example rib 1 is much shorter than all of the other ribs.
Thesternum is considered a flat bone, which itself can be separated into 3 parts: the manubrium, body and xiphoid process. Originally, these 3 parts are connected by cartilage but following adulthood the cartilage ossifies to create a T-shaped bone in the midline of the chest. The function of the sternum is to provide articulations for the ribs and to protect internal thoracic organs.
The thoracic spine is made up of 12 vertebrae with characteristic heart-shaped vertebral bodies, separated from their adjacent vertebrae by intervertebral discs. The thoracic spine is found after the cervical spine in the vertebral column. One of the main functions of the thoracic spine is to help protect internal organs within the thorax, showing functional similarity to the other bones of the thorax – the ribs and the sternum.
In this section, learn more about the anatomy of the bones of the thorax– the ribs, the sternum and the thoracic spine.