Thoracic spine

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 11 Oct 2020

The thoracic spine (often shortened to T-spine) forms the middle part of the vertebral column. It extends from below C7 of the cervical spine to above L1 of the lumbar spine. There are 12 thoracic vertebra, termed T1-T12.

The thoracic spine is unique due to its articulation with ribs via costal facets. The ribs restrict the movement of the thoracic spine somewhat. The thoracic spine is otherwise the most mobile of all spinal column segments.

For a basic description of the anatomy of typical vertebrae, see vertebrae.


In medical English, some doctors and texts refer to the dorsal spine, D-spine and D1-D12, however, we discourage this usage on Radiopaedia preferring thoracic spine, T-spine and T1-T12. This is consistent with Terminologia Anatomica, which solely employs the thoracic designator to refer to this part of the spine. However, in French-speaking parts of the world, D1-D12 are commonly used interchangeably with T1-T12 2.

Gross anatomy

Most thoracic vertebrae have similar features with the exception of some atypical ones. Relative to cervical and lumbar vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae have:

  • medium-sized, heart shaped vertebral bodies
  • medium-sized round vertebral canals
  • prominent transverse processes with costal facets
  • long spinous processes angulating downwards

For more detailed information, see typical thoracic vertebrae.

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