The sternum and its attachments

Exploring the Anatomy of Ribs and Sternum in the Thorax


The thorax is a vital region of the human body, housing and protecting essential organs like the heart and lungs. The ribs and sternum play a crucial role in providing structural support and safeguarding these vital organs. In this comprehensive blog, we will delve into the anatomy of the ribs and sternum in the thorax, understanding their composition, function, and significance.

The Sternum:

The Sternum:

The sternum, commonly known as the breastbone, is a flat, elongated bone located in the center of the chest. It consists of three main components:

  1. Manubrium: The superior portion of the sternum, which articulates with the clavicles and the first pair of ribs.
  2. Body: The middle portion, also known as the gladiolus, connects to the manubrium above and the xiphoid process below.
  3. Xiphoid Process: The inferior end of the sternum, made of cartilaginous tissue. It serves as an attachment point for abdominal muscles.


rib, cage, ribs-

The ribs are long, curved bones that form the rib cage, enclosing and protecting the thoracic organs. There are 12 pairs of ribs, classified into three types:

  1. True Ribs: The first seven pairs of ribs directly connect to the sternum via costal cartilages.
  2. False Ribs: The next three pairs of ribs (8-10) indirectly attach to the sternum through shared cartilage connections.
  3. Floating Ribs: The last two pairs of ribs (11-12) are called floating ribs as they lack anterior attachments to the sternum.

Rib Anatomy:

Each rib consists of several key components:

  1. Head: The posterior end of the rib that articulates with the vertebral column.
  2. Neck: A narrowed region between the head and the tubercle.
  3. Tubercle: A small projection on the rib that connects to the transverse process of the corresponding vertebra.
  4. Shaft: The elongated, curved portion of the rib, providing structural support to the thoracic cavity.
  5. Introduction to the ribs: The ribs are long, curved bones that articulate with the thoracic vertebrae and form the framework of the thoracic cage.
  6. Types of ribs: The human ribcage consists of 12 pairs of ribs, which are further classified into three types: true ribs, false ribs, and floating ribs.
  7. True ribs (1-7): Discussing the features and attachment points of the true ribs, which are directly connected to the sternum via costal cartilages.
  8. False ribs (8-12): Exploring the characteristics of the false ribs, which either attach indirectly to the sternum or lack a connection altogether.
  9. Floating ribs (11-12): Focusing on the unique characteristics of the floating ribs, which lack a sternal attachment and provide limited protection to the organs.

Functions of Ribs and Sternum:

  1. Protection: Ribs and sternum form a sturdy cage, shielding vital organs like the heart and lungs from external injuries.
  2. Respiratory Support: The rib cage expands and contracts during breathing, facilitating lung expansion and ventilation.
  3. Muscle Attachment: Ribs and sternum serve as attachment sites for various muscles, including intercostal muscles and diaphragm.
  4. Sternum composition: Describing the three components of the sternum – the manubrium, the body, and the xiphoid process – and their individual characteristics.
  5. Introduction to the sternum: The sternum, commonly known as the breastbone, is a flat bone located in the anterior midline of the thorax.

Clinical Significance:

  1. Rib Fractures: Rib fractures can occur due to trauma or underlying conditions, causing pain and potential damage to adjacent organs.
  2. Sternum Abnormalities: Conditions like pectus excavatum or pectus carinatum can affect the shape of the sternum
  3. Sternum-related surgeries: Providing an overview of sternotomy, a surgical procedure involving the division of the sternum, commonly performed for open-heart surgeries.


Understanding the anatomy of the ribs and sternum is crucial for comprehending the protective structure of the thoracic cage and its role in safeguarding vital organs. By exploring the intricate details of rib classification, sternum composition, and their clinical significance, we gain valuable insights into the complexities of the thorax. This knowledge not only fosters a better understanding of the human body but also aids healthcare professionals in diagnosing and treating thoracic-related conditions effectively.

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