Fetal Anatomy of the Human Carotid Sheath and Structures In and Around It



The aim of this study was to find basic rules governing the morphological development of the typical neurovascular sheath. We carried out histological examination of 15 paraffin-embedded mid-term fetuses at 9–25 weeks of gestation (three fetuses each at 9, 12, 15, 20, and 25 weeks). As the result, the vagus nerve showed a high propensity to change its topographical relationship with the common carotid artery (CCA) during 9–20 weeks of gestation: that is, from a primitive ventral course to a final dorsal course. The adventitia of the great arteries, which was distinct from other fascial structures, became evident by 15 weeks. The carotid sheath appeared at and after 20 weeks: it was clearly separated from the prevertebral lamina of the deep cervical fasciae, but fused with the pretracheal lamina covering the strap muscles. Thus the carotid sheath, as well as the topographical relationships of structures within it, seems to become established much later than the prevertebral and pretracheal laminae of the deep cervical fasciae. However, the adventitia of the cervical great arteries consistently becomes evident much earlier than the sheath, and it seems to be regarded as one of the basic components of the fetal deep cervical fasciae. Anat Rec, 293:438–445, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.