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Cervical vertebra 4
Other Terms: C4 vertebra
Cervical vertebrae three, four, five, and six are similar in appearance. They are small, delicate vertebrae. Each has a central rectangular body with thin, bifid, transverse projecting processes containing a foramen. Their spinous processes are short and bifid with one projection typically being longer than the other. They consist of a thin covering of compact bone over a core of cancellous bone.
The word cervical arises from the Latin term cervix meaning neck. This is an ancient term that has passed through the centuries literally unchanged. The word vertebra is an old Latin term that meant a joint or something to be turned. It arises from the Latin verto meaning to turn. In A.D. 30 Celsus used the word to designate any joint. It was only in later years that the bone arrived at its present meaning.
This vertebra articulates with two other vertebrae: the superior and inferior neighboring vertebrae. Six articular surfaces unite each typical vertebra. The two superior articular facets articulate with the corresponding inferior articular facets of the adjacent vertebra and the superior and inferior surfaces of the vertebral bodies form an articulation via the intervertebral disc of cartilage.
Five cartilaginous centers arise as anlagen to all vertebrae and ribs. One center forms the body, two anterolateral centers form the costal elements, two posterolateral centers form the vertebral arch elements. In this vertebra the body anlage begins to ossify during the third intrauterine month. At this time the ossification centers for the costal and arch anlagen appear and merge into paired lateral centers. At birth, the three ossifying centers are still separate. The two laminae unite during the second year, but they do not join the body until years three to six. This fusion typically begins cranially and proceeds caudally. Secondary centers appear on the tips of the transverse and spinous processes and on the inferior and superior surfaces of the bodies. These secondary centers appear during the middle teen years and fuse in the mid-twenties.