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Deciphering Cervical Ribs: An In-depth Exploration by Dr. Krishna Chaitanya

Cervical ribs, as explained by Dr. Krishna Chaitanya, Lead Consultant in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, may seem like a complex term, but in simple terms, they represent an additional set of ribs located in the neck area. Despite being relatively unknown, this condition can significantly impact an individual's health. In this comprehensive discussion, we will unravel the intricacies of cervical ribs, exploring their nature, causes, and potential effects on individuals.

Understanding Cervical Ribs:

Dr. Krishna begins by highlighting that humans typically possess 12 pairs of ribs safeguarding vital organs in the chest. However, some individuals may develop an extra pair of ribs in the neck region, situated above the first rib. Termed as cervical ribs, this anomaly is an outcome of fetal development during pregnancy.

Causes and Classification:

According to Dr. Krishna, cervical ribs result from congenital malformations in the early stages of pregnancy. This implies that individuals are born with this additional set of ribs. Although the exact cause remains unclear, a connection to genetic factors or environmental influences during embryonic development is postulated. Cervical ribs exhibit diverse types, categorized by size and shape, ranging from short and rudimentary to longer ones extending towards the first rib. The variations can impact surrounding structures, including blood vessels and nerves.

Health Implications:

Dr. Krishna notes that while many individuals may live their entire lives without being aware of cervical ribs, in some cases, these ribs can compress nearby blood vessels and nerves, leading to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). TOS manifests when nerves or blood vessels between the neck and armpit are compressed, causing pain, numbness, and tingling in the arms and hands. The presence of cervical ribs can exacerbate this compression. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as persistent shoulder pain, arm weakness, or numbness are advised to seek medical attention for a thorough diagnosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Cervical ribs are often incidentally discovered through imaging tests conducted for unrelated medical issues. If cervical ribs are found to be causing symptoms, Dr. Krishna suggests various treatment options. These may include physical therapy, pain management, or, in severe cases, surgical intervention to alleviate pressure on affected structures.


In conclusion, cervical ribs represent an uncommon anatomical variation that may go unnoticed in many cases. However, when these extra ribs contribute to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, they can lead to discomfort and various symptoms. Dr. Krishna emphasizes the importance of understanding the causes, types, and potential impacts of cervical ribs, particularly for individuals experiencing related symptoms and seeking appropriate medical care.

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