Axis Bone Anatomy

Author: Scott A. Sheffield MS

Last update:

Introduction to Axis Bone Anatomy:

Inferior to the atlas bone (C1) is the second cervical vertebra (C2), which is also referred to as the axis bone (axis, vertebra cervicalis II).

One of the most prominent features of the axis bone is a superior, tooth-like projection called the odontoid process (or dens).

The odontoid process image descriptionarticulates with the anterior arch of the atlas bone, where they form a pivot joint.

When the head image descriptionrotates side-to-side, the atlas bone rotates around the peg-like odontoid process. This is the reason why the second cervical vertebra is also called the axis bone.

Markings of the Axis Bone:

  1. Body or centrum (Corpus vertebrae) is a cylindrical mass on anterior side of the vertebra. It articulates with body of the vertebra below (C3).
  2. Odontoid process or dens (Dens axis) is a prominent rounded superior projection from the body.
    This tooth-like elevation serves a stable point around which the atlas bone rotates (Gr., odous, tooth).
  3. Superior articular facet (Facies articularis superior) is a smooth, sightly convex surface that articulates with the inferior articular facet on the altas bone above (C1).

[Superior view/ Lateral view]

  1. Transverse process (Processus transversus) is a small extension that lies inferior to the superior articular facet and projects laterally. It is an attachment site for muscles that move the head and neck.
  2. Transverse foramen (Foramen transversarium) is a hole in the transverse process that serves as a passageway for the vertebral artery and vein.
  3. Vertebral foramen (Foramen vertebrale) is a large opening in the center of the axis bone that forms a passageway for the spinal cord.

Learn more about vertebrae anatomy with these spine anatomy diagrams and quizzes.

  1. Vertebral arch or neural arch (Arcus vertebrae) is the bony archway that encloses the posterior vertebral foramen and protects the spinal cord from damage.
  2. Lamina of the vertebral arch (Lamina archus vertebrae) is one of two plates that forms the dorsal portion of the vertebral arch.
  3. Spinous process (Processus spinosus) is a narrow posterior projection from the junction of the two laminae. It is an attachment point for ligaments and muscles that move the head and neck.
  4. Inferior articular process (Processus articularis inferior) is a downward projection from the vertebral arch. Its flattened inferior surface or facet makes contact with the superior articular facet on C3.

Test yourself:

Superior view: [Show/Hide answers]

Lateral view: [Show/Hide answers]

Interactive quiz about the axis

Quiz – Axis Bone Anatomy