Neuroanatomy and clinical analysis of the cervical sympathetic trunk and longus colli

J Biomed Res. 2015 Nov;29(6):501-7. doi: 10.7555/JBR.29.20150047. Epub 2015 Oct 30.


Anterior cervical surgery is commonly used for cervical vertebral body lesions. However, the structure of blood vessels and nerve tissues along the route of anterior cervical surgery is complex. We aimed to measure the data of the longus colli, the sympathetic trunk and the cervical sympathetic trunk (CST) ganglia in Chinese cadaver specimens. A total of 32 adult cadavers were studied. We delineated the surgical anatomy of the CST. The superior and inferior/cervicothoracic ganglia of the sympathetic trunk consistently appeared. The middle ganglion was observed in 28.1% of the specimens and there were 2 cases of unilateral double middle cervical ganglia. The inferior ganglion was observed in 25.0% of the specimens and the cervicothoracic ganglion was observed in the remaining specimens. The distance between the CST gradually decreased from the top to the bottom, and the distance between the medial edges of the longus colli gradually broadened from the top down. The average angle between the bilateral CST and the midline of the vertebra was 11.2°±1.8° on the left side and 10.3°±1.4° on the right side. The average angle between the medial margins of longus colli of both sides was 11.1°±1.9°. The CST is at high risk when LC muscle is cut transversely or is dragged heavily, especially at the levels of C6 and C7. Awareness of the regional anatomy of the CST could help surgeons to identify and preserve it during anterior cervical surgeries.

Keywords: Horner syndrome; cervical sympathetic trunk; ganglion; longus colli; spinal surgery.