True vocal cords

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 21 Feb 2024

The true vocal cords are the thickened, free edge of the cricovocal membrane/ligament also known as cricothyroid ligament, lined by mucous membrane 1. Together, they constitute the glottis and form the rima glottidis, which is the V-shaped aperture through which air passes. Their primary role is in phonation where vibration of the adducted vocal cords gives rise to sound waves with a certain pitch.

The cricovocal membrane, also known as conus elasticus, extends upwards from a semicircular base following the contours of the cricoid cartilage to form a horizontal upper free border attached anteriorly in the midline to thyroid cartilage and posteriorly to the vocal process of the arytenoid cartilage 1. This free edge between the thyroid laminae and the arytenoid cartilage is thickened as the cricovocal ligament 1.

Stratified squamous epithelium lines the vocal folds. The lamina propria is very firmly attached over the vocal cords.

The body of the true vocal cord contains the muscles that release tension in the cord: vocalis and thyroarytenoid muscles.

Related pathology

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: larynx coronal CT anatomy
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  • Figure 2: larynx coronal CT anatomy
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  • Figure 3: vocal cords (Gray's illustration)
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  • Figure 4: larynx (Gray's illustrations)
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  • Figure 5: larynx (Gray's illustrations)
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  • Figure 6: larynx (Gray's illustrations)
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  • Figure 7: laryngeal muscles (Gray's illustrations)
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  • Figure 8: laryngeal muscles (Gray's illustrations)
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