Triangles of the Neck

I am consumed with a fiery undying hatred for anatomy.

Last week we began our new unit, endocrinology, by dissecting the neck. Rather, we started dissecting the neck. We were given a two hour lecture and a three hour lab to take apart and learn the neck – but it wasn’t even close to enough. Most groups had to return later in the week to finish.

The neck sucks. Like everything else in the human body, it is mostly just tubes within other tubes within a big tube that hurts if you hunch over a computer screen too long. Whoever made humans – God, Darwin, millions of years of evolution that somehow also produced the platypus – clearly had a sense of humor, because who would willingly place every important vessel in the body in the most easily-exposed part of the body?

Sucks worse to be a giraffe, I guess.

The neck is so complicated that we, genius medical people, have arbitrarily divided it into “triangles” in order to make learning it easier (protip: it doesn’t help). These triangles are not real. They are inventions, like the PMI. Go to the mirror. Look at your neck. There are no triangles. But we had to learn them, so now I know what muscles are in the muscular triangle and what runs in the posterior triangle.

In lecture, this all makes great sense. Triangles! What a great way to learn information!


Okay, so the skin-colored triangle doesn’t really look like a triangle. But the green one kinda does! And look, that enormous muscle totally divides them just like it’s supposed to. Wait…


So it turns out that one of the Big Triangles is subdivided into smaller, more useless triangles. Great. Also, these don’t look at all like triangles. The red arrows you see were my futile attempts to create a triangle, out of what appears to be nothing.



When we went to lab, we got through twenty percent of the dissection. In three hours. We came back a couple of days later to “finish,” and ended up spending an hour trying to find a small, pale piece of string called the hypoglossus nerve. I do not know what the hypoglossus nerve looks like. I do not know where it goes, what it is supposed to do, or why I am supposed to care. I hate the hypoglossus.

In case you’re thinking, “but Nate, those cartoons were so clear! Doesn’t the inside of the neck actually look like that?” first of all I hate you, and second of all, no. The neck looks much more like this:


Oh, sorry, that’s the “lateral view.” Here’s the anterior view:


I bet you can’t find the hypoglossus.

Once we found the hypoglossus (I say “we” loosely, as I contributed exactly 0% to its discovery), we still had two full hours of dissection to go. By the end, I was pointing out structures that would have been obvious to a high schooler in honors biology: “Is that the carotid?” <slice> “Nope.” Goodbye, random artery we probably needed to identify. You had a good run.

Days when I have the scalpel are the scariest days for my anatomy lab group.

Sorry, not sorry.

Compounding the problem is that the neck has arteries, veins, and worst of all nerves. God I hate nerves. Of course, they all have names, and of course, they will all be tested. You have to know that the geniohyoid muscle is innervated by the C1 spinal nerve, but that it uses the dreaded hypoglossus nerve as a piggyback to get there. I have no idea whatsoever why this is important.

Whatever. This is what resignation looks like. I’m hungry. Dinner’s spaghetti.

4 thoughts on “Triangles of the Neck

  1. nathan, I feel your frustration . laughter is really the best medicine- am fighting a cold but could not stop laughing while reading your the triangles too. i love you too. love,grandma and thanks for the laugh.

  2. Pingback: Is Fourth Year Needed? | Laughter is the Best Medicine

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