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The larynx and trachea lie in the central visceral compartment of the neck (see neck anatomy), surrounded by loose areolar tissue that allows vertical movement (elevation and depression) in the long axis of the body. More tracheal rings rise above the sternal notch with neck extension (see tracheostomy).
The larynx is supported by a semi-rigid framework of cartilages (see laryngeal anatomy). The inferior cornua of the thyroid cartilage articulate with the posterolateral surfaces of the cricoid cartilages. The complete ring of the cricoid helps maintain the patency of the airway (and is used to compress the underlying esophagus to prevent reflux during anesthetic intubation). The arytenoid cartilages sit atop the higher posterior part of the cricoid ring, and can pivot and slide from side to side on the sloping shoulder of the cricoid. The narrow inferior ligamentous stalk of the epiglottis attaches to the posterior surface of the thyroid cartilage. The cricothyroid ligament runs from the superior rim of the cricoid to the vocal folds.
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