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Artery

German: Arterie

1 Definition

Arteries per definition are all blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.

2 Background

After being oxygenated in the lungs, blood passes through the heart's left ventricle and the body's central artery, the aorta. From there, the oxygen-rich blood reaches the arteries of the systemic circulation.

In contrast to that, arteries of the pulmonary circulation carry blood low in oxygen away from the right ventricle.

3 Classification

3.1 ... by morphology

In some organs (e.g. the penis), special kinds of arteries can be classified by their morphology:

3.2 ... by function

4 Nomenclature

Arteries are usually either named systematically according to the body region where they are located, or their name is derived from the structure they supply. The radial artery for example is located next to the radius, whereas the facial artery is located in the face (Latin: "facies"). The renal artery supplies the kidney (Latin: "ren"), the hepatic artery proper supplies the liver (Latin: "hepar").

5 Histology

The walls of arteries usually exhibit three distinct layers, that are arranged concentrically:

  • Tunica intima (intima): Like all blood vessels, the interior side of arteries is covered with an endothelium which sits atop a thin layer of connective tissue.
  • Tunica media (media): The thickness of smooth muscle within the artery varies with its size and the pressure conditions within it.
  • Tunica externa (adventitia): The artery's smooth muscle layer is covered with an additional layer of connective tissue.
  • Elastic laminae: Large vessels have elastic laminae on both sides of the tunica media which are called internal and external elastic lamina, respectively.


Arteries can be classified by their wall structure and size:

  • Elastic arteries: The tunica media consists of layers with elastic fibers that integrate into the smooth muscle. Especially the large arteries of the systemic circulation belong to this group.
  • Distributing arteries (muscular arteries): The tunica media consists of tightly packed bundles of smooth muscles which can regulate the pressure within the artery.
  • Mixed type arteries: These arteries represent the transition between muscular and elastic arteries.
  • Arterioles: small arteries with little smooth muscle are called arterioles before they subdivide into capillaries.

6 Physiology

The inner layers of arteries receive oxygen and nutrients by diffusion from the blood flowing through them (bradytroph), whereas the outer layers of the tunica media and adventitia are supplied by their own small vessels (vasa vasorum).

7 Important artery

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