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The human vertebral column at the end of the embryonic period proper. 3. The thoracicolumbar region.

  • O'Rahilly, R
  • Müller, F
  • Meyer, D B
Published Article
Journal of anatomy
Publication Date
Feb 01, 1990
PMID: 2323997


The present study of the thoracicolumbar region continues an investigation of the vertebral column at 8 postovulartory weeks (the end of the embryonic period proper) by means of graphic reconstructions. The cartilaginous vertebrae have short neural processes associated with the normal spina bifida occulta present at this time. The separate cartilaginous centres that several authors believe to exist in the cervical and lumbar costal elements, but which have not been observed by the present authors, have been thought to be the forerunners of extrathoracic ribs. A distinction needs to be made, however, between such centres and ribs. Similarly, in the fetal period, ossific loci in the costal elements of CV 7 are very frequent, whereas cervical ribs in the adult are relatively rare. The neurocentral joints, and hence the boundaries between neural arches and centra, are unclear before ossification has begun and has progressed during the fetal period. The sternal bands are almost completely united and the scapula is high in position. Neural relationships aid in the determination of homologous parts within the vertebral column, but clarification of corresponding parts has not previously been possible within the embryonic period. Areas ventral to the dorsal rami are ribs in the thoracic region and costal elements in other regions. Areas underlying the dorsal rami are transverse processes in the thoracic region and minute 'true' transverse elements in the cervical and lumbar regions. Thus, the descriptive lumbar transverse processes correspond to the true transverse processes and the ribs in the thoracic region. The dorsal rami of the thoracic nerves pass between the transverse processes and the tubercles of the ribs and then divide. The ventral rami of lumbar Nerves 1 and 2 resemble the thoracic in their course, whereas those of Nerves 3-5 are similar to the sacral. The thoracic dorsal roots are sloping and, associated with the greater height of the lumbar centra, the lumbar roots even more so. The directions of the various dorsal roots reflect differences in growth gradients between vertebral column and spinal cord. The thoracic and lumbar portions of the column change little in proportion during the embryonic period proper.

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