Spinal canal

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Spinal canal
Scheme body cavities-en.svg
Spinal cavity shown as part of dorsal body cavity.
A typical thoracic vertebra viewed from above. (Spinal canal is not labeled, but the foramen in the center would make up part of it.
Latinc. vertebralis
Anatomical terminology

In human anatomy, the spinal canal (or vertebral canal or spinal cavity) is the canal that contains the spinal cord within the vertebral column. It is a process of the dorsal body cavity. The spinal canal is enclosed within the foramina of the vertebrae. In the intervertebral spaces, the canal is protected by the ligamentum flavum posteriorly and the posterior longitudinal ligament anteriorly.[citation needed]


The vertebral canal is enclosed anteriorly by the vertebral bodies, intervertebral discs, and the posterior longitudinal ligament; it is enclosed posteriorly by the vertebral laminae and the ligamenta flava; laterally, it is incompletely enclosed by the pedicles with the interval between two adjacent pedicles on either side creating an intervertebral foramen (allowing the passage of the spinal nerves and blood vessels).[1]

The vertebral canal progressively narrows inferiorly.[1] It is wider in the cervical region to accomodate the cervical enlargement of the spinal cord.[2][3]


The outermost layer of the meninges, the dura mater, is closely associated with the arachnoid mater which in turn is loosely connected to the innermost layer, the pia mater. The meninges divide the spinal canal into the epidural space and the subarachnoid space. The pia mater is closely attached to the spinal cord. A subdural space is generally only present due to trauma and/or pathological situations. The subarachnoid space is filled with cerebrospinal fluid and contains the vessels that supply the spinal cord, namely the anterior spinal artery and the paired posterior spinal arteries, accompanied by corresponding spinal veins. The anterior and posterior spinal arteries form anastomoses known as the vasocorona of the spinal cord and these supply nutrients to the canal. The epidural space contains loose fatty tissue, and a network of large, thin-walled blood vessels called the internal vertebral venous plexuses.[citation needed]

Clinical significance[edit]

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the canal which can occur in any region of the spine and can be caused by a number of factors. It may be caused by cervical myelopathy.[4]

Spinal canal endoscopy can be used to investigate the epidural space, and is an important spinal diagnostic technique.[5][6]


The spinal canal was first described by Jean Fernel.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Sinnatamby, Chummy S. (2011). Last's Anatomy (12th ed.). p. 425. ISBN 978-0-7295-3752-0.
  2. ^ Kim, Hak-Jin (2010-01-01), Kim, Daniel H.; Kim, Yong-Chul; Kim, Kyung-Hoon (eds.), "Chapter 3 - Radiologic Anatomy of the Spine", Minimally Invasive Percutaneous Spinal Techniques, New York: W.B. Saunders, pp. 46–57, doi:10.1016/b978-0-7020-2913-4.00003-3, ISBN 978-0-7020-2913-4, retrieved 2020-11-03
  3. ^ Haran, Crishan. "Spinal canal | Radiology Reference Article | Radiopaedia.org". Radiopaedia.
  4. ^ Lewit, Karel; Ellis, Richard M (2010-01-01), Lewit, Karel; Ellis, Richard M (eds.), "Chapter 3 - Functional anatomy and radiology of the spinal column", Manipulative Therapy, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, pp. 39–85, doi:10.1016/b978-0-7020-3056-7.00003-6, ISBN 978-0-7020-3056-7, retrieved 2020-11-03
  5. ^ Datta, Sukdeb (2009-01-01), Smith, HOWARD S. (ed.), "Chapter 87 - EPIDURAL ADHESIOLYSIS", Current Therapy in Pain, Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, pp. 629–639, doi:10.1016/b978-1-4160-4836-7.00087-0, ISBN 978-1-4160-4836-7, retrieved 2020-11-03
  6. ^ Saberski, Lloyd R. (2007-01-01), Waldman, Steven D.; Bloch, Joseph I. (eds.), "chapter 15 - Spinal Canal Endoscopy", Pain Management, Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, pp. 167–178, doi:10.1016/b978-0-7216-0334-6.50019-4, ISBN 978-0-7216-0334-6, retrieved 2020-11-03

External links[edit]