Hyoid bone

The hyoid is a "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, sesamoids aside. 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 are often described in terms of relation to the hyoid (i.e. suprahyoid neck; infrahyoid neck).

  • location: midline neck, anterior to the trachea
    • the level of the hyoid separates levels II from III in the lateral neck and levels Ia and VI in the anterior neck
  • articulations: none, no bony articulations
  • 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 trachea. The hyoid consists of three parts:

  • a body
  • two greater horns
  • two lesser horns

Multiple small neck muscles insert in the three parts:

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, the hyoid separates levels Ia (above) from VI (below). Laterally, the level of the hyoid separates level II from level III.

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

Movement of the hyoid (hyoid elevation) is an indication of the strength of the pharyngeal muscles during a modified barium swallow study.

Anatomy: Head and neck
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Article information

rID: 38410
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1: hyoid (blue arrow)
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