Transverse cervical nerve

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 2 Aug 2021

The transverse cervical nerve, also known as the superficial cervical nerve, cutaneous cervical nerve or anterior cutaneous cervical nerve of the neck, is a cutaneous branch of the cervical plexus that innervates the skin covering the anterior cervical region.

Gross anatomy


The transverse cervical nerve arises from the ventral rami of C2 and C3 spinal nerves.


The transverse cervical nerve emerges along the posterior aspect of the sternocleidomastoid muscle at the punctum nervosum (Erb’s point) inferior to the greater auricular nerve and passes anteriorly and horizontally along the sternocleidomastoid muscle. The transverse cervical nerve then pierces the deep cervical fascia and passes underneath the platysma muscle where it branches into terminal superior and inferior branches.

Branches and supply
  • the superior (or ascending) branches of the transverse cervical nerve proceed to the submaxillary region and eventually form a plexus with the cervical branch of the facial nerve deep to the platysma muscle. Remaining superior branches pierce the platysma muscle and are distributed to the skin along the upper and anterior surface of the neck
  • the inferior (or descending) branches of the transverse cervical nerve pierce the platysma muscle and are distributed to the skin over the anterior and lateral aspects of the neck as inferior as the sternum

As it passes anteriorly across the sternocleidomastoid muscle the transverse cervical nerve passes deep to the external jugular vein.

Variant anatomy

The branching pattern of the transverse cervical nerve has been shown to be highly variable in cadaveric studies. 

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: transverse cervical nerve
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  • Figure 2: cervical plexus diagram
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  • Figure 3: nerves of the face, scalp and neck (Gray's illustration)
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