The cricoid cartilage is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the trachea, or windpipe. It is located near the middle and center of the neck. This cartilage consists of strong connective tissue constituting the dorsal (back) part of the larynx, or voice box.
The cricoid cartilage is located slightly below the thyroid cartilage, which it connects with through the medial cricothyroid ligament. It also joins the first tracheal ring through the cricotracheal ligament. The thyroid gland has an anatomical relationship with this cartilage. The gland’s two lobes extend above on either sides of the cricoid, but the thyroid isthmus — a bridge of tissue that joins the two halves of the thyroid over the trachea — is below it. The lateral (side) and front portions of this cartilage are slightly narrower than the back portion.
The primary role of the cricoid cartilage is to provide connectivity for different ligaments, cartilages, and muscles, which facilitate the opening and shutting of the air passage and the production of sound.
The cricoid cartilage is composed of hyaline, which is soft and flexible in young people. However, it calcifies and hardens as it progresses in age. The cartilage may be surgically removed in rare cases where it becomes necessary to clear tracheal blockages.