Lateral atlanto-axial joint

Lateral atlanto-axial joint: Anatomy & FunctionAnatomy, functions, innervation and blood supply of the lateral atlanto-axial joint
~ 3 min

The vertebral column is connected to the skull by three joints: the atlanto-occipital, the median atlanto-axial, and the lateral atlanto-axial joint.

Let’s learn about the structure of the lateral atlanto-axial joint (articulatio atlantoaxialis lateralis).

Lateral atlanto-axial joint (art. atlantoaxialis lateralis)
Lateral atlanto-axial joint (art. atlantoaxialis lateralis)
Lateral atlanto-axial joint (art. atlantoaxialis lateralis)
Lateral atlanto-axial joint (art. atlantoaxialis lateralis)

This joint is formed between the inferior articular surface of the atlas (facies articularis inferior) and the articular surface on the superior articular process of the axis (facies articularis superior).

Superior articular surface of the axis (facies articularis superior axis)
Superior articular surface of the axis (facies articularis superior axis)
Inferior articular surface of the atlas (facies articularis inferior atlantis)
Inferior articular surface of the atlas (facies articularis inferior atlantis)

The joint capsule is attached along the edge of the articular surfaces.

Lateral articular joint – capsule (art. atlantoaxialis lateralis – capsula)
Lateral articular joint – capsule (art. atlantoaxialis lateralis - capsula)

According to the classification, this joint is plane, multiaxial, simple, and combined (with the same joint of the opposite side, as well as with the median atlanto-axial joint).

The lateral atlanto-axial joint is restricted in mobility, sliding motions are carried out in it only with a slight displacement of the articular surfaces relative to each other.

As a rule, this takes place around the vertical axis, while the head turns to the right and left.

The ligamentous apparatus of the joint includes several ligaments:

  • The cruciate ligament of the atlas (ligamentum cruciforme atlantis). It consists of three bundles:

    Cruciate ligament of the atlas (lig. cruciforme atlantis)
    Cruciate ligament of the atlas (lig. cruciforme atlantis)
    • The superior longitudinal fasciculus (fasciculus longitudinalis superior)

      Superior longitudinal fasciculus (fasciculus longitudinalis superior)
      Superior longitudinal fasciculus (fasciculus longitudinalis superior)
    • The inferior longitudinal fasciculus (fasciculus longitudinalis inferior)

      Inferior longitudinal fasciculus (fasciculus longitudinalis inferior)
      Inferior longitudinal fasciculus (fasciculus longitudinalis inferior)
    • The transverse ligament of the atlas (ligamentum transversum atlantis)

      Transverse ligament of the atlas (lig. transversum atlantis)
      Transverse ligament of the atlas (lig. transversum atlantis)

      The joint is also strengthened by the alar ligaments (ligamenta alaria), which restrict excessive rotation of the head to the right and left. Each such ligament arises from the lateral surface of the dens and passes externally, obliquely and upward, where it inserts into the internal surface of the corresponding condyle of the occipital bone.

      Alar ligaments (ligg. alaria)
      Alar ligaments (ligg. alaria)
  • Another ligament is the apical ligament of the dens (ligamentum apicis dentis), it is unpaired, thin, and stretched between the edge of the foramen magnum and the apex of the dens.

    Apical ligament of the dens (lig. apicis dentis)
    Apical ligament of the dens (lig. apicis dentis)
  • And the last ligament that strengthens the joint is the tectorial membrane (membrana tectoria).

    Tectorial membrane (membrana tectoria)
    Tectorial membrane (membrana tectoria)

    The following vessels and nerves take part in the blood supply and innervation of the joint.

  • Arteries: branches of the deep cervical, occipital, and vertebral arteries

  • Nerves: anterior branch of the second spinal nerve

Dictionary

Lateral atlanto-axial joint

lateral atlanto-axial joint
articulatio atlantoaxialis lateralis
inferior articular surface
facies articularis inferior
superior articular surface
facies articularis superior
cruciate ligament of atlas
ligamentum cruciforme atlantis
superior longitudinal fasciculus
fasciculus longitudinalis superior
inferior longitudinal fasciculus
fasciculus longitudinalis inferior
transverse ligament of atlas
ligamentum transversum atlantis
alar ligaments
ligamenta alaria
apical ligament of dens
ligamentum apicis dentis
tectorial membrane
membrana tectoria
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