Posterior cricoarytenoid muscle

The posterior cricoarytenoid muscles are small, paired muscles that extend from the posterior cricoid cartilage to the arytenoid cartilages in the larynx.

Posterior cricoarytenoid
Muscles of larynx. Side view. Right lamina of thyroid cartilage removed.
Originposterior part of the cricoid
Insertionmuscular process of the arytenoid cartilage
Nerverecurrent laryngeal nerve branch of the vagus
Actionsabducts and laterally rotates the cartilage, pulling the vocal ligaments away from the midline and forward and so opening the rima glottidis
AntagonistLateral cricoarytenoid muscle
LatinMusculus cricoarytaenoideus posterior
Anatomical terms of muscle


Nerve supply

The posterior cricoarytenoid muscles receive are supplied by the recurrent laryngeal branch of the vagus nerve.[1] :10


The posterior cricoarytenoid muscles are the only muscles to open the vocal cords. By rotating the arytenoid cartilages laterally, these muscles abduct the vocal cords and thereby open the rima glottidis.[1] :9 Their action opposes the lateral cricoarytenoid muscles.

Clinical significance

Paralysis of the posterior cricoarytenoid muscles may lead to asphyxiation as they are the only laryngeal muscles to open the true vocal folds, allowing inspiration and expiration.[2]

Additional images

See also


  1. Hydman, Jonas (2008). Recurrent laryngeal nerve injury. Stockholm. ISBN 978-91-7409-123-6.
  2. The Arytenoid Cartilages - a clinical overview. 2002, Dr. C Kay et al. Thorne Publishing (C)
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