Posterior mediastinum

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 28 Sep 2022

The posterior mediastinum (or paravertebral compartment) is a potential space along the paravertebral sulci. It is conceptually considered a portion of the inferior mediastinum, and separated from the middle mediastinal compartment and the remainder of the extrapleural intrathoracic cavity by arbitrary lines.

It is continuous with the retropharyngeal space via the posterior part of the superior mediastinum.

  • thoracic spine 5
  • paraspinal nervous system 6
    • thoracic spinal ganglion
    • sympathetic trunk and major branches
    • rami communicantes of intercostal nerves
  • paravertebral soft tissues 5
    • proximal intercostal vessels
  • distal azygos-hemiazygos venous system 6
  • superiorly: thoracic inlet
  • inferiorly: diaphragm
  • anteriorly: anatomically defined as the posterior pericardium 8 although other definitions describe the anterior border 1 cm posterior to anterior margin of thoracic vertebral bodies 5
  • posteriorly: posterior margin of chest wall, along the transverse processes of thoracic vertebrae
  • laterally: mediastinal parietal pleura

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