The sevens cervical vertebrae are located immediately below the skull. They are the smallest of the vertebrae. One method of differentiating the cervical vertebrae from the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae is to look for the hole (foramen) in each transverse process. This is the pathway of the vertebral artery. The fifth cervical vertebrae (C5) is the fifth vertebrae from the top of the column. The C5 vertebrae is a significant marker when determining the consequences of trauma to the neck and spinal column. If the spinal cord injury is at or above the fifth cervical vertebrae, the victim may be unable to breathe, since respiration is controlled by the spinal cord nerves located between the third and fifth cervical vertebrae. Even if death by asphyxiation is avoided by emergency measures, the victim will like be a quadriplegic. If the injury is below the fifth cervical vertebrae (C5), the likely outcome is that the victim will be a paraplegic. If a spinal injury is suspected, do not move the victim unless necessary to escape an immediate deadly threat such as a burning house.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: C5