Superior thoracic aperture

The superior thoracic aperture, also known as the thoracic inlet or outlet, connects the root of the neck with the thorax.

Gross anatomy

The superior thoracic aperture is kidney-shaped and lies in an oblique transverse plane, tilted anteroinferiorly to posterosuperiorly. It is roughly 10 cm in transverse dimension and 5 cm in AP dimension.


The list of structures that pass through the superior thoracic aperture is long and can be divided into five groups: midline, bilateral, posteriorly, and asymmetric left and right.


Variant structures that course through include:

  • left vertebral artery from the aortic arch
  • left brachiocephalic trunk
  • right common carotid artery
  • right subclavian artery
  • right-sided thoracic duct 

Related pathology