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Lymph nodes on back of neck diagram: [Figure, Illustration of the lymph nodes of the head and neck. Contributed by Chelsea Rowe] – StatPearls

Thoracic Lymph Nodes Anatomy, Diagram & Function

Thoracic Lymph Nodes Anatomy, Diagram & Function | Body Maps

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Medically reviewed by the Healthline Medical Network — By The Healthline Editorial Team on July 6, 2020

Thoracic lymph nodes are separated into two types: parietal lymph nodes located in the thoracic wall, and visceral lymph nodes, which are associated with the internal organs. Due to their location, abnormalities of the lymph nodes in the thorax, or chest, are not easily detected. However, any changes in the size or amount of these lymph nodes could be indicative of several types of extrapulmonary or pulmonary diseases. For diagnostic purposes, lymph nodes of the thorax can be further divided into sub-categories. The lung lymph nodes can be found along the bronchi. The paratracheal and tracheobronchial groups of lymph nodes are located in the neck and also in the junction where the trachea meets the bronchi, respectively. These accept drainage from the heart, lungs, bronchi, and thoracic trachea as well as other lymph nodes. The posterior mediastinal group of lymph nodes, located near the thoracic aorta, is closely linked to the tracheobronchial group and primarily drains into the thoracic duct. The chest wall thoracic lymph nodes receive drainage from the breasts, arms, pectoral muscles, and other muscles and skin located in the upper section of the chest.

Last medically reviewed on July 6, 2020

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Medically reviewed by the Healthline Medical Network — By The Healthline Editorial Team on July 6, 2020

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Cervical lymph nodes: anatomy, groups and drainage

Roberto Grujičić MD

Dimitrios Mytilinaios MD, PhD

Last reviewed: December 05, 2022

Reading time: 3 minutes

Superficial anterior cervical lymph nodes

Nodi lymphoidei cervicales anteriores superficiales


Nodi lymphatici cervicales anteriores superficiales, Lymphonodi cervicales anteriores superficiales

The cervical lymph nodes, commonly known as the lymph nodes of the neck, are a large group of lymph nodes that can be classified into several groups. These groups of nodes include:

  • The superficial anterior cervical lymph nodes that are situated adjacent to the anterior jugular vein. These nodes drain lymph from the infrahyoid region, isthmus of the thyroid gland, inferior larynx to the deep lateral cervical lymph nodes.
  • The deep anterior cervical lymph nodes that are situated mostly in the midline and can be divided into four groups of nodes including the prelaryngeal, thyroid, paratracheal and pretracheal nodes. They drain lymph from the larynx, trachea, and thyroid to the deep lateral cervical lymph nodes. 
  • The superficial lateral cervical lymph nodes that are situated adjacent to the external jugular vein. They drain lymph from the parotid nodes to the supraclavicular nodes. 
  • The deep lateral cervical lymph nodes that are situated adjacent to the internal jugular vein. They can be subdivided into superior and inferior groups. These nodes receive the majority of lymph from the head and neck region and drain to the jugular trunk. 
  • The accessory lymph nodes that are the most lateral group of cervical nodes, located adjacent to the accessory nerve. These nodes drain lymph from the lateral neck, pharynx and shoulder regions and empty into the supraclavicular nodes.
  • The supraclavicular lymph nodes that are situated at the root of the neck. These nodes receive lymph from the deep lateral cervical lymphatic vessels and empty into the jugular trunk on each side. 
  • The retropharyngeal lymph nodes that are situated posterior to the pharynx. These nodes receive afferents from the nasal cavities, paranasal sinuses, soft palate, palatine arch, outer and middle ear and drain into the superior and inferior deep lateral cervical lymph nodes of the neck.

In summary, all lymphatic vessels from the head and neck drain directly or indirectly into the deep cervical lymph nodes. Lymph from these deep nodes passes to the jugular lymphatic trunk, which joins the thoracic duct on the left side and the internal jugular vein or brachiocephalic vein on the right side.


English: Cervical lymph nodes
English synonym
: Lymph nodes of the neck
: Nodi lymphoidei cervicales
Latin synonyms:
Nodi lymphatici cervicales, Lymphonodi cervicales

Main groups

Superficial anterior cervical lymph nodes
Deep anterior cervical lymph nodes
Superficial lateral cervical lymph nodes
Deep lateral cervical lymph nodes
Accessory lymph nodes
Supraclavicular lymph nodes
Retropharyngeal lymph nodes


Lymph nodes of the neck filter and transport lymph from surrounding lymph nodes and viscera back into the bloodstream

Test your knowledge on the lymphatics of the head and neck with this quiz.

Learn all about the lymph nodes of the head and neck with the following study unit: 

Lymphatics of the head and neck

Explore study unit

All content published on Kenhub is reviewed by medical and anatomy experts. The information we provide is grounded on academic literature and peer-reviewed research. Kenhub does not provide medical advice. You can learn more about our content creation and review standards by reading our content quality guidelines.

  • Lambert SM. Shoulder girdle and arm. In: Gray’s Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice. 41st ed. Elsevier; 2016. p. 834.
  • Richter E, Feyerabend T. Normal lymph node topography: CT atlas. Springer; 2004.
  • Iwanaga J, Lofton C, He P, Dumont AS, Tubbs RS. Lymphatic System of the Head and Neck. J. Craniofac. Surg. 2021;32(5):1901–5.

  • Kyriacou H, Khan YS. Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Axillary Lymph Nodes. StatPearls. 2021;

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Lymph nodes : normal anatomy



Quick access
Schematic drawings

  • Terminologia Anatomica: International Anatomical Terminology – FCAT Federative Committee On Anatomical Terminology, Federative Committee on Anatomical Terminology – Thieme, 1998 – ISBN 3131152516, 9783131152510
  • Selection and delineation of lymph node target volumes in head and neck conformal radiotherapy. Proposal for standardizing terminology and procedure based on the surgical experience. Grégoire V, Coche E, Cosnard G, Hamoir M, Reychler H. Radiother Oncol. 2000 Aug;56(2):135-50. Review.PMID: 10927132
  • CT-based definition of thoracic lymph node stations: an atlas from the University of Michigan.Chapet O, Kong FM, Quint LE, Chang AC, Ten Haken RK, Eisbruch A, Hayman JA.Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2005 Sep 1;63(1):170-8.
  • Definition of the supraclavicular and infraclavicular nodes: implications for three-dimensional CT-based conformal radiation therapy. Madu CN, Quint DJ, Normolle DP, Marsh RB, Wang EY, Pierce LJ. Radiology. 2001 Nov;221(2):333-9.
  • Standardizing Neck Dissection Terminology: Official Report of the Academy’s Committee for Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology
    K. Thomas Robbins; Jesus E. Medina; Gregory T. Wolfe; Paul A. Levine; Roy B. Sessions; Charles W. Pruet
    Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1991;117(6):601-605.

anatomical structures


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What to do if the lymph nodes in the neck are inflamed

The enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck, as a rule, occurs as a result of contact with bacteria and viruses. If the enlargement is caused by an infection, it is called lymphadenitis. Rarely, cancer can be the cause.

The lymphatic system plays a vital role in keeping our body alive and is a major component of our immunity. Lymph nodes can be felt in the neck, chin, armpits and groin. In some cases, no action is required for treatment and a warm compress is enough. Treatment depends on the cause.


The lymphatic system includes a network of organs and lymph nodes located throughout the body. Most of them are in the head and neck area. Swollen lymph nodes indicate that something is wrong in the body. The first signs are sensitivity, soreness and an increase in lymph nodes to the size of a bean and even more.

Depending on the cause of the appearance, the symptoms of the disease may be as follows:

Runny nose, sore throat, fever and other signs of an upper respiratory tract infection.
Swollen lymph nodes throughout the body may indicate HIV, mononucleosis, or immune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Swollen limbs may indicate a blockage in the lymphatic system caused by tumors in the lymph nodes that are deep under the skin and cannot be felt.

When treatment of lymph nodes in the neck requires a visit to a doctor

Lymph nodes return to normal over time if the cause of the increase was an infection that could be treated. But there are a number of factors in which you should consult a doctor:

  • Swelling without apparent cause
  • Duration 2-4 weeks
  • Knots are difficult to feel and do not move when pressed
  • Associated with persistent fevers, night sweats and weight loss
  • Accompanied by sore throat and difficulty swallowing.

Why lymph nodes in the neck become inflamed – causes

A lymph node is a small, round or bean-shaped cluster of cells covered with a capsule of connective tissue. The cells are a combination of lymphocytes that produce protein particles that fight viruses and macrophages that break down harmful substances. Lymphocytes and macrophages filter the lymphatic fluid that flows throughout the body and protects us.

Lymph nodes are located in groups, each of which serves a specific area of ​​the body. An increase in a specific area may suggest a cause. The most common is an infection, especially a viral one, such as a cold. But there are other types0019 lymphadenitis of the cervical lymph nodes , such as parasitic or bacterial, which can cause enlargement of the lymph nodes.

Common infections:

  • Measles
  • Ear infections
  • Infection of the tooth – abscess
  • Mononucleosis
  • Skin infections
  • HIV

Atypical infections:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Sexually transmitted (syphilis and others)
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Cat scratch bacterial infection

Autoimmune diseases:

  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis


  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Other cancers that have spread to lymph nodes


If the cause is an infection and not properly treated, complications may occur.

Abscess formation. Localization of the accumulation of pus caused by infection. Pus contains fluid, white blood cells, dead tissue, bacteria, and other harmful elements. If an abscess occurs, drainage or antibiotic treatment may be required. Significant damage can be done if vital organs are affected.

Bloodstream infection. Bacterial, can start anywhere in your body and progress to sepsis caused by significant blood poisoning. Sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Treatment includes hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics.


To diagnose an illness, your doctor may need to:

  • Medical history
  • Medical examination
  • Blood test
  • Chest x-ray and computed tomography
  • Lymph node biopsy (as a last resort).

Treatment of lymph nodes in the neck

If the cause is a virus, the lymph nodes in the neck will recover on their own after the infection itself is treated. But if this does not happen or there is another reason, the following treatment may be required:

  • Infection.