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Systemic arteries

This diagrams shows the major arteries in the human body.
The major systemic arteries shown here deliver oxygenated blood throughout the body.

The aorta

The aorta    is the largest artery in the body ( [link] ). It arises from the left ventricle and eventually descends to the abdominal region, where it bifurcates at the level of the fourth lumbar vertebra into the two common iliac arteries. The aorta consists of the ascending aorta, the aortic arch, and the descending aorta, which passes through the diaphragm and a landmark that divides into the superior thoracic and inferior abdominal components. Arteries originating from the aorta ultimately distribute blood to virtually all tissues of the body. At the base of the aorta is the aortic semilunar valve that prevents backflow of blood into the left ventricle while the heart is relaxing. After exiting the heart, the ascending aorta    moves in a superior direction for approximately 5 cm and ends at the sternal angle. Following this ascent, it reverses direction, forming a graceful arc to the left, called the aortic arch    . The aortic arch descends toward the inferior portions of the body and ends at the level of the intervertebral disk between the fourth and fifth thoracic vertebrae. Beyond this point, the descending aorta    continues close to the bodies of the vertebrae and passes through an opening in the diaphragm known as the aortic hiatus    . Superior to the diaphragm, the aorta is called the thoracic aorta    , and inferior to the diaphragm, it is called the abdominal aorta    . The abdominal aorta terminates when it bifurcates into the two common iliac arteries at the level of the fourth lumbar vertebra. See [link] for an illustration of the ascending aorta, the aortic arch, and the initial segment of the descending aorta plus major branches; [link] summarizes the structures of the aorta.


This diagram shows the aorta and the major parts are labeled.
The aorta has distinct regions, including the ascending aorta, aortic arch, and the descending aorta, which includes the thoracic and abdominal regions.
Components of the Aorta
Vessel Description
Aorta Largest artery in the body, originating from the left ventricle and descending to the abdominal region, where it bifurcates into the common iliac arteries at the level of the fourth lumbar vertebra; arteries originating from the aorta distribute blood to virtually all tissues of the body
Ascending aorta Initial portion of the aorta, rising superiorly from the left ventricle for a distance of approximately 5 cm
Aortic arch Graceful arc to the left that connects the ascending aorta to the descending aorta; ends at the intervertebral disk between the fourth and fifth thoracic vertebrae
Descending aorta Portion of the aorta that continues inferiorly past the end of the aortic arch; subdivided into the thoracic aorta and the abdominal aorta
Thoracic aorta Portion of the descending aorta superior to the aortic hiatus
Abdominal aorta Portion of the aorta inferior to the aortic hiatus and superior to the common iliac arteries

Coronary circulation

The first vessels that branch from the ascending aorta are the paired coronary arteries (see [link] ), which arise from two of the three sinuses in the ascending aorta just superior to the aortic semilunar valve. These sinuses contain the aortic baroreceptors and chemoreceptors critical to maintain cardiac function. The left coronary artery arises from the left posterior aortic sinus. The right coronary artery arises from the anterior aortic sinus. Normally, the right posterior aortic sinus does not give rise to a vessel.

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