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Ductus thoracicus

Synonym: thoracic duct
German: Ductus thoracicus

1 Definition

The thoracic duct is the largest lymph vessel in the human body. It takes the lymph from the afferent lymphatic vessels from the bottom and the upper left half of the body and flows into the left venous angle.

2 Course

The ductus thoracius begins as an unpaired cisterna chyli in the abdomen and runs through the hiatus aorta of the diaphragm in the thoracic cavity. Above the cysterna chyli the lymph is milky because of the fats from the gastrointestinal tract.

Halfway up the chest cavity, the thoracic duct finds the right aorta. At the level of the fourth vertebra, the division of the trachea often runs next to the right pleura so that lymph can flow in the event of injuries to the thoracic duct in the pleural cavity (chylothorax).

At the level of the upper chest opening, it moves to the left and enters the left venous angle from the rear at the confluence of the vena jugularis externa, vena jugularis interna and the vena subclavia. Its entry into the venous angle is secured by a flap so that no blood can enter the lymphatics.

The thoracic duct may be doubled in its course for short distances and is about forty centimetres long.

3 Inflows

The thoracic duct collects the lymph from the entire lower and upper left half of the body. Its main tributaries are the following:

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