Anatomy of the Aorta

Aortic Root

The aortic root is connected to the heart. The aortic root is a special structure that contains the aortic valve and the origins of the right and left main coronary arteries. Changes in the size and shape of the artic root can affect the aortic valve’s ability to work normally. The rounded shape of the root lets enough blood flow into the coronary arteries to ensure the heart muscle can function. Diseases that affect coronary artery blood flow can reduce the heart’s ability to pump effectively.

Ascending Aorta

The ascending aorta begins above the aortic root and extends towards the neck until it begins to turn and give rise to the aortic arch. Although the ascending aorta does not contain any important structures, it’s more likely to develop aneurysms and dissections, which require surgery to repair.

Aortic Arch

The aortic arch is the curved part of the aorta above the heart, between the ascending and the descending aorta. It contains the arterial branches that go to the head and both arms. In most people, this consists of three branches: the brachiocephalic artery, the left common carotid artery and the left subclavian artery. Surgery involving the aortic arch requires complex circulation techniques in the operating room to protect the brain and other vital organs.

Descending Aorta

The descending aorta starts after the aortic arch has branched off for the last time. It continues down through the chest. Once it passes through the diaphragm, it’s called the abdominal aorta. The descending aorta provides important blood flow to the spinal cord. In many cases, endovascular surgery is an option for problems with the descending aorta, but more complex problems will still require open surgery.

Abdominal Aorta

The abdominal aorta extends from the diaphragm to the pelvis, where it splits to provide blood flow to your legs. Along the way, its branches provide blood flow to all of the abdomen’s vital organs. Different branches are responsible for the stomach, liver, spleen, kidneys, pancreas and intestines. Location of disease in the abdominal aorta is very important and will determine the type of procedure you need.

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