Arytenoid cartilage

The arytenoid cartilages are paired hyaline cartilages that articulate with the sloping upper border of the lamina of the cricoid cartilage by the cricoarytenoid joint. This joint allows movement of the arytenoid cartilages, which is vital in approximating, tensing and relaxing the vocal folds.

Each cartilage is pyramidal in shape and has three projections or processes:

  • vocal process: forward projection that attaches to the vocal fold
  • muscular process: lateral projection attaches to the posterior and lateral cricoarytenoid muscles
  • superior process: superior projection articulates with the very small corniculate cartilage, to which the aryepiglottic fold is attached

Slightly anteriorly to the arytenoid cartilages sit the paired cuneiform cartilages, which lie within the aryepiglottic fold.

The word  'arytenoid' derives from the greek word meaning ladle-shaped. 

Sclerosis of the arytenoid cartilages is often a normal variant in asymptomatic subjects on CT scan, especially when found on the left side in females and when involving the body instead of the vocal process 4. As such, it should not be mistaken for tumor invasion (squamous cell carcinoma), although it wouldn't upstage the lesion according to the staging system.

Anatomy: Head and neck

Anatomy: Head and neck

Article information

rID: 44577
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Arytenoid cartilage

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: larynx: illustration
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  • Figure 2: arytenoid cartilages (illustration)
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