Thoracic plane

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Thoracic plane
Anatomical terminology

The (transverse) thoracic plane or transthoracic plane is a geometric plane used to divide the mediastinum (the middle section of the chest cavity) into the superior mediastinum and the inferior mediastinum.

The thoracic plane runs through the level of the sternal angle (the joint between the manubrium and body of the sternum) and between the intervertebral disc located between the T4 and T5 thoracic vertebrae.[1][2][3]

The superior mediastinum extends superiorly above the plane, while the inferior mediastinum extends inferiorly. The inferior mediastinum is further divided into the anterior, middle, and posterior mediastinum.

Significant findings at the level of the thoracic plane[edit]

1. The start (where the aortic arch comes out of the heart) and end of the arch of the aorta (where the arch of the aorta becomes the descending aorta)

2. The upper margin of the superior vena cava [4]

3. The crossing of the thoracic duct

4. The bifurcation of the trachea [5]

5. The bifurcation of the pulmonary trunk

6. The level of the sternal angle (angle of Louis)

7. The level of Rib 2 where it attaches to the sternum via the 2nd costal cartilage

8. The body of vertebrae T4

9. The drainage of the azygos vein into the superior vena cava


  1. ^ Thoracic Wall, Pleura, and Pericardium - Dissector Answers
  2. ^ Untitled Document
  3. ^ UAMS Department of Anatomy - Topographical Anatomy - Thorax
  4. ^ RADIOGRAPHIC LANDMARKS OF THE UPPER MARGIN OF THE SUPERIOR VENA CAVA (SVC) IN CHILDREN. - Arai et al. 49 (Supplement 1): 32 - Canadian Journal of Anesthesia
  5. ^ UAMS Department of Anatomy - Viscera of the Thorax