Anterior Cervical Approaches to the Spine

  • Robert G. Watkins


The significant anatomical landmarks for differentiating the approaches to the cervical spine presented in Table 1.1 are the stemocleidomastoid muscle, the carotid sheath, and the longus coli muscle (Fig. 1A).I-8 Categorization is based on the direction of approach relative to these specific structures, as demonstrated in the table. For example, approach no. 1 is medial to the stemocleidomastoid muscle (therefore, retracting it laterally) and medial to the carotid sheath (therefore, retracting it laterally as well). Approach no. 7 is directed lateral to the stemocleidomastoid muscle and lateral to the carotid sheath. A significant aspect of these approaches is whether to approach the carotid sheath medially or laterally. Approaching the carotid sheath medially and retracting laterally often requires sacrifice of vessels coursing from the carotid sheath to the medial musculovisceral column. Nerves running from lateral to medial also must be retracted. Approaching the carotid sheath laterally and retracting it medially, as in the anterolateral approaches,l-5 produces a more avascular plane but may also result in a more limited exposure. Both the anteromedial and the anterolateral approaches have common points of dissection and anatomy.


Cervical Spine Hyoid Bone Styloid Process Hypoglossal Nerve Superior Laryngeal Nerve 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert G. Watkins
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Clinical Orthopedic SurgeryUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.St. Vincent’s HospitalLos Angeles Spine Surgery InstituteLos AngelesUSA

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