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(ver'te-bra) plural.vertebrae [L.]
Any of the 33 bony segments of the spinal column: 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral, and 4 coccygeal vertebrae. In adults, the five sacral vertebrae fuse to form a single bone, the sacrum, and the four rudimentary coccygeal vertebrae fuse to form the coccyx.

A typical vertebra consists of a ventral body and a dorsal or neural arch. In the thoracic region, the body bears on each side two costal pits for reception of the head of the rib. The arch that encloses the vertebral foramen is formed of two roots or pedicles and two laminae. The arch bears seven processes: a dorsal spinous process, two lateral transverse processes, and four articular processes (two superior and two inferior). A deep concavity, the inferior vertebral notch, on the inferior border of the arch provides a passageway for a spinal nerve. The successive vertebral foramina form the vertebral, or spinal, canal that encloses the spinal cord.

The bodies of successive vertebrae articulate with one another and are separated by intervertebral disks, disks of fibrous cartilage enclosing a central mass, the nucleus pulposus. The inferior articular processes articulate with the superior articular processes of the next succeeding vertebra in the caudal direction. Several ligaments (supraspinous, interspinous, anterior and posterior longitudinal, and the ligamenta flava) hold the vertebrae in position, yet permit a limited degree of movement. Motions of the vertebral column include forward bending (flexion), backward bending (extension), side bending (lateral flexion), and rotation. Lateral flexion and rotation motions are coupled so that whenever the vertebrae bend to the side, they also rotate and vice versa. See: sacrum for illus

basilar vertebra

The lowest of the lumbar vertebrae.

cervical vertebra

One of the seven vertebrae of the neck.

coccygeal vertebra

One of the rudimentary vertebrae of the coccyx.

vertebra dentata

The second cervical vertebra.

false vertebra

Fixed vertebra.

fixed vertebra

The sacral and coccygeal vertebrae that fuse to form the sacrum and coccyx.

lumbar vertebra

One of the five vertebrae between the thoracic vertebrae and the sacrum.

vertebra magna


odontoid vertebra

Axis (2).

vertebra prominens

The seventh cervical vertebra.

sacral vertebra

One of the five fused vertebrae forming the sacrum.
See: sacrum for illus

sternal vertebra

One of the segments of the sternum.

thoracic vertebra

One of the 12 vertebrae that connect the ribs and form part of the posterior wall of the thorax.
See: spinal column for illus

true vertebra

One of the vertebrae that remain unfused through life: the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar.
Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners


Bones in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions of the body that make up the vertebral column. Vertebrae have a central foramen (hole), and their superposition makes up the vertebral canal that encloses the spinal cord.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.