Medical Definition of Vertebral rib

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Vertebral rib: One of the last two ribs. A rib is said to be "vertebral" if it does not attach to the sternum (the breast bone) or to another rib.

There are usually 12 pairs of ribs in all. Each pair of ribs is attached to the building blocks of the spine (the vertebrae) in the back. The 12 pairs of ribs consist of:

  • True ribs: The first seven ribs attach to the sternum (the breast bone) in the front and are known as true (or sternal) ribs.
  • False ribs: The lower five ribs do not directly connect to the sternum and are known as false ribs.

The upper three false ribs connect to the costal cartilages of the ribs just above them. The last two false ribs, however, usually have no ventral attachment (no anchor at all in front) and are called vertebral, fluctuating, or floating ribs.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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