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Anatomy of the Heart: Aorta

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What is the aorta?

The aorta is the largest artery in the body. Arteries are vessels that carry blood away from the heart. The aorta arises from the left ventricle of the heart, forms an arch, then extends down to the abdomen, where it branches off into two smaller arteries.

Function of the Aorta

The aorta carries and distributes oxygen rich blood to all arteries. Most major arteries branch off from the aorta, with the exception of the main pulmonary artery.

Structure of the Aortic Walls

The walls of the aorta consist of three layers. They are the tunica adventitia, the tunica media, and the tunica intima.

These layers are composed of connective tissue, as well as elastic fibers. These fibers allow the aorta to stretch to prevent over-expansion due to the pressure that is exerted on the walls by blood flow.

Branches of the Aorta

  • Descending Aorta

    Chest Region:

    • Visceral Branches - Supply blood to the lungs, pericardium, lymph nodes, and esophagus.

    • Parietal Branches - Supply blood to the chest muscles, diaphragm, and spinal cord.

    Abdominal Region:

      Celiac Artery

      • Left Gastric Artery - Supplies blood to the esophagus and portions of the stomach.

      • Hepatic Artery - Supplies blood to the liver.

      • Splenic Artery - Supplies blood to the stomach, spleen, and pancreas.

      Superior Mesenteric Artery - Supplies blood to the intestines.

      Inferior Mesenteric Artery - Supplies blood to the colon.

      • Renal Arteries - Supplies blood to the kidneys.

      • Ovarian Arteries - Supplies blood to the female reproductive organs.

      • Testicular Arteries - Supplies blood to the male reproductive organs.

      Common Iliac Artery

      • Femoral Arteries - Supply blood to the lower legs and feet.
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