Hyoid bone

Last revised by Yuranga Weerakkody on 4 Jun 2023

The hyoid bone is a midline "horseshoe-shaped" bone that serves as a structural anchor in the mid-neck. It is the only bone in the human body that does not directly articulate with another bone (other than sesamoids). It is a place of convergence of multiple small neck muscles that permit the pharyngeal phase of swallowing. The location of structures in the neck is often described in terms of relation to the hyoid (i.e. suprahyoid neck; infrahyoid neck).

  • location: midline structure located between the mandible and the thyroid cartilage and anterior to the epiglottis at the level of C3/C4

    • the level of the hyoid separates lymph node levels II from III in the lateral neck and levels Ia and VI in the anterior neck

  • articulations: none

  • blood supply: branches of the external carotid artery

  • relations: numerous muscles insert on the hyoid, detailed below

The hyoid bone is located in the mid-neck, above the thyroid cartilage, anterior to the pharynx. It is divided into three parts:

  • body

  • lesser horn (one on each side, symmetric)

  • greater horn (one on each side, symmetric)

Multiple small neck muscles insert onto different parts of the hyoid 4:

Several ligaments also attach to the hyoid:

Branches of the external carotid artery, predominantly the infrahyoid branch of the superior thyroid artery, and branches of the lingual artery.

The position of the hyoid defines a few lymph node levels of the neck:

  • anteriorly: hyoid separates levels Ia (above) from VI (below)

  • laterally: hyoid separates level II from level III

  • absent lesser horns

  • pierced by the thyroglossal duct

The hyoid is the ossified horseshoe-shaped structure just superior to the thyroid cartilage.

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads

Cases and figures

  • Figure 1
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 2
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 3
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 4
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 5: hyoid bone (Gray's illustration)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Case 1: hyoid (blue arrow)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.

     Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

     Thank you for updating your details.