Anatomical structures of the Neck

Vessels, Muscles, Lymph Nodes and Parathyroid

Anatomical structures of the Neck


The arteries that supply the head and face located in the neck are:

  • External Carotid
  • Internal Carotid


The veins that drain the head and face located in the neck are:

  • External Jugular
  • Anterior Jugular
  • Posterior External Jugular
  • Internal Jugular (IJV)
  • Vertebral


The neck muscles:

(for way more information here is a great resource )

Suboccipital Musculature

  • Obliquus capitis inferior
  • Obliquus capitis superior
  • Rectus capitis posterior major
  • Rectus capitis posterior minor

Prevertebral Musculature

  • Longus colli (important – know this)

  • Longus capitis
  • Rectus capitis anterior
  • Rectus capitis lateralis

Anterolateral Neck Musculature

  • Anterior scalene
  • Scalenus minimus (may be absent)
  • Middle scalene
  • Posterior scalene

Superficial Neck Musculature

  • Sternocleidomastoid (important – know this)
  • Platysma

Anterior Neck

  • Sternohyoid
  • Omohyoid
  • Sternothyroid
  • Thyrohyoid
  • Stylohyoid
  • Digastric
  • Mylohyoid
  • Geniohyoid


Most variants typically will relate to alternate insertion or origination points, unilateral absence or variable innervation arrangements. The reason the nerves play an important role is that if there are 2 nerves then we know that there are actually 2 muscle masses that fused*.

* Shinohara’s law – Shinohara H.A warning against revival of the classic tenets of gross anatomy related to nerve-muscle specificity. J Anat.1996; 188:247-248

Lymph Nodes

Lymph node groups

  • Occipital
  • Facial
  • Posterior Auricular
  • Deep Facial
  • Anterior Auricular
  • Lingual
  • Parotid
  • Retropharyngeal


The parathyroid glands usually sit at the lateral/posterior border of the thyroid. They are small (usually about 6mm x 3mm) reddish/brown, flat shaped discs. There is a superior set and an inferior set.

It is rare to have less than 4 (< 1 in 1000), but common to have more than 4 (around 33%).

For information relating to the Thyroid (more specifically thyroid lab values) I cover that in depth here – Thyroid lab values in relation to Ultrasound.


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I am the founder and lead Instructor here at I strive to help those that are entering the field of Ultrasound to be the best that they can be. Ultrasound is my passion.

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