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The thoracic plane, also known as the transthoracic plane or the plane of Ludwig is an artificial horizontal plane used to divide the mediastinum into the superior mediastinum and the inferior mediastinum.
It is defined as a horizontal line that runs from the manubriosternal joint (sternal angle or angle of Louis) to the inferior endplate of T4 1. Above the thoracic plane is the superior mediastinum and below the thoracic plane is the inferior mediastinum.
A number of important structures are transected by the thoracic plane 1:
- bifurcation of the trachea, i.e. the carina
- aortic arch (inner concavity)
- pulmonary trunk bifurcation
- azygos vein drains into the SVC, arching over the right main bronchus
- left recurrent laryngeal nerve loops around the aortic arch
- thoracic duct moves from right to left hand side posterior to the esophagus
- ligamentum arteriosum
- cardiac plexus (superficial and deep parts)
- termination of the prevertebral fascia and pretracheal fascia