The vertebral artery, cervical spinal nerves, spinal nerve roots, and the bony and ligamentous tissue related to the cervical vertebrae are structures whose anatomy determines the path of a surgical approach. Defining the anatomy and, in particular, determining the precise location of vulnerable structures at the intervertebral foramen and the uncovertebral foraminal region (UVFR), a region defined by the uncinate process anteriorly, the facet joint posteriorly and the foramen transversarium laterally, has critical significance when selecting the safest surgical approach. We studied the anatomy of the vertebral artery, cervical spinal nerves, and spinal nerve roots within the UVFR in six cadaver specimens. We also obtained measurements of bony structures in 35 dry cervical vertebral columns, from C3-C7. The uncinate process (UP) projects superiorly from the posterolateral aspect of each cervical vertebral body, except for the first and second vertebrae. Because the posterior part of the UP lies adjacent to the vertebral artery, spinal nerve, and spinal nerve roots, its resection creates sufficient space to decompress these structures directly. The posterolateral surface of the UP is covered by ligamentous tissue that originates from the posterior longitudinal ligament and protects the neural and vascular structures during their decompression in the UVFR. (C) 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.