The Cricoid Cartilage: A Prominent Structure in the Human Larynx


The human larynx is a complex and intricate structure responsible for producing sound and facilitating the passage of air during breathing. Within the larynx, the cricoid cartilage is a prominent and essential component. In this article, we will explore the significance of the cricoid cartilage in the human larynx, its anatomical features, and its role in voice production and airway protection.

Understanding the Cricoid Cartilage

The cricoid cartilage is a ring-shaped structure located at the base of the larynx, just above the trachea. It is the only complete ring of cartilage in the larynx and serves as a foundation for the other cartilaginous structures, such as the thyroid cartilage and the arytenoid cartilages. The cricoid cartilage is composed of hyaline cartilage, a type of cartilage that provides structural support and flexibility.

Anatomical Features

  • 1. Shape and Structure: The cricoid cartilage is shaped like a signet ring, with a broad posterior portion and a narrower anterior portion. It forms a complete ring that encircles the larynx, providing structural support and stability.
  • 2. Articulations: The cricoid cartilage articulates with several other structures in the larynx. The inferior portion of the thyroid cartilage rests on the superior surface of the cricoid cartilage, forming the cricothyroid joint. The arytenoid cartilages, which play a crucial role in vocal cord movement, sit on the superior surface of the cricoid cartilage.
  • 3. Muscular Attachments: Various muscles attach to the cricoid cartilage, allowing for movement and control of the larynx. The vocal cords, which are responsible for sound production, attach to the anterior portion of the cricoid cartilage. Additionally, muscles involved in swallowing and airway protection have attachments to the cricoid cartilage.

Role in Voice Production

The cricoid cartilage plays a significant role in voice production. It provides support and stability to the larynx, allowing for precise control of vocal cord tension and positioning. The cricoid cartilage, along with the other cartilaginous structures in the larynx, helps regulate the tension and length of the vocal cords, influencing the pitch and quality of the voice.

Airway Protection

The cricoid cartilage also plays a crucial role in airway protection. During swallowing, the cricoid cartilage moves upward and forward, tilting the epiglottis to cover the entrance of the larynx. This action prevents food or liquid from entering the airway and directs them towards the esophagus. The cricoid cartilage acts as a protective barrier, ensuring that the airway remains clear and unobstructed during swallowing.

Clinical Significance

The cricoid cartilage has clinical significance in various medical procedures and emergencies:

  • 1. Intubation: During endotracheal intubation, a tube is inserted through the mouth or nose into the trachea to maintain an open airway. The cricoid cartilage serves as a landmark for proper tube placement, ensuring that the tube is correctly positioned above the vocal cords.
  • 2. Cricothyrotomy: In emergency situations where traditional methods of airway management are not possible, a cricothyrotomy may be performed. This procedure involves making an incision through the cricothyroid membrane, a structure located between the cricoid and thyroid cartilages, to establish an emergency airway.


The cricoid cartilage is a prominent structure in the human larynx, providing support, stability, and flexibility. Its shape, articulations, and muscular attachments contribute to voice production and airway protection. Understanding the role of the cricoid cartilage in the larynx is essential for medical professionals involved in procedures such as intubation and emergency airway management.

[Thyroid Cartilage](
[Arytenoid Cartilages](
[Cricothyroid Joint](
[Vocal Cords](
[Endotracheal Intubation](

Related PostsUnlocking the Secrets of the Cricoid Cartilage: Understanding its Vital Functions in the Human Body