The lymphatic system, made up of lymphoid tissues known as nodes and vessels, is part of the human immune system. It is involved in protecting the body against infection, by delivering immune cells, known as lymphocytes, to areas where the immune response has been triggered. There are some 600 to 700 lymph nodes scattered throughout the body. Cervical lymph nodes are located in the neck region.
There are two general categories of cervical lymph nodes: anterior and posterior.
Anterior superficial and deep nodes include submental and submaxillary (tonsillar) nodes located under the chin and jawline, respectively. The anterior cervical lymph nodes are further down the front of the neck, divided into prelaryngeal, thyroid, pretracheal, and paratracheal, based on their position near structures of the throat. Prelaryngeal lymph nodes are located in front of the larynx, or voice box, near the middle and center of the neck. Thyroid lymph nodes lie near the thyroid gland, just above the center of the collarbone. Pretracheal nodes are positioned in front of the trachea, or windpipe, at the bottom center of the neck. Paratracheal nodes are located near the sides of the trachea.
Posterior lymph nodes are located along the back of the neck.
Deep cervical lymph nodes are associated with their positions adjacent to the internal jugular vein, which runs near the sides of the neck. They are known as the lateral jugular, anterior jugular, and jugulo-digastric lymph nodes. The inferior deep cervical lymph nodes, the juguloomohyoid nodes, and the supraclavicular, or scalene, nodes are considered deep jugular nodes.
Swollen lymph nodes are fairly common and generally result from exposure to bacteria or viruses, such as that which causes the common cold. In rare instances, swollen nodes may indicate a more serious condition, such as cancer or an immune disorder.