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What is the Suprasternal Notch?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The suprasternal notch is a small notch at the top of the sternum. It is a very visible part of human anatomy which people can see on themselves by looking into a mirror and seeking the hollow at the base of the throat. It can also be very easily palpated by hand, simply by bringing the hand to the top center of the sternum and feeling the area for a dip. This structure is also sometimes known as the jugular notch or as the fossa jugularis sternalis among the Latin-inclined.

This dip at the base of the neck is sometimes assessed during physical examinations in which a patient is checked for signs of obvious health problems. Palpation of the suprasternal notch should not reveal a palpable pulse, except in some older patients. Feeling a pulse can indicate that there is a problem with the aorta which may need to be addressed, as this major blood vessel can lead to severe medical complications if it is compromised.

If a patient has difficulty breathing, sometimes a symptom known as a suprasternal notch retraction can be observed. In these patients, the struggle to breathe can cause the notch to appear to retract into the chest. This is usually a cause of problems with pleural pressure, the pressure in the space which surrounds the lungs. When the pleural pressure is stable and balanced, it facilitates breathing by allowing the lungs to inflate and deflate freely. When the pressure is unstable, it can lead to problems for the patient as she or he fights against the pressure to breathe.

In fashion design, the suprasternal notch has been occupying designers and models alike for thousands of years. It is visually interesting, and is sometimes highlighted with garments which are cut and draped in a particular way. Jewelry also often highlights the suprasternal notch, and sometimes nestles inside it in some designs. The visual interest of these area of the body has also led people in some cultures to regard it as erotically exciting.

This area tends to be of more visual and erotic interest in women. Some excellent examples of suprasternal notch-flaunting design can be seen in films, in which leading ladies are often outfitted in garments which highlight their necks. Films and television series in the vampire genre in particular tend to focus and linger on the anatomy of the neck. Numerous paintings and sculptures also reveal this structure in detail.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By shell4life — On Jan 10, 2013

I don't like jewelry designed to rest in the suprasternal notch. I've tried wearing chokers in the past, but they literally make me feel like I'm choking.

When I wear a necklace, I want it to fall further down and give me plenty of room to breathe. I'm really sensitive to things grasping my neck.

They may be pretty, but they are not worth the feeling of suffocation. I don't even like shirts with necks that come up over my suprasternal notch. I want this area to be free of all restrictive clothing or jewelry.

By DylanB — On Jan 10, 2013

I've seen some elderly people with really deep suprasternal notches. It might be because they have trouble breathing as well as they should, but those notches sometimes appear to be sinking.

It looks as though a vacuum is sucking the area downward. Of course, it is normal for the skin to sag at the great age of eighty or ninety, but something about this spot makes it seem more dramatic than just a sagging cheek or arm.

By orangey03 — On Jan 09, 2013

It's weird how you can see the suprasternal notch even in people who have several chins and thick necks. I would expect the extra fat to cover it up, but it doesn't.

By Oceana — On Jan 08, 2013

I just checked myself for suprasternal pulsation, and I'm happy to report that I found none. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, so as soon as I read that a pulse in this area isn't normal, I had to check. I'm glad I can cross it off my list of things to worry about!

By anon117873 — On Oct 12, 2010

Is the suprasternal notch more pronounced in adulthood, especially in men? Why?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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