Anatomy
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What is the Abdominal Aorta?

The abdominal aorta is the body's main blood vessel, supplying oxygen-rich blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs. This vital artery extends from the heart's aortic arch down to the lower abdomen, where it splits into two smaller arteries. Intrigued by how this crucial vessel supports your life? Discover its functions and importance in our comprehensive visual guide. Ready to explore further?
Liora Hess
Liora Hess

The aorta is the largest artery in the body. It is connected to the left ventricle of the heart and has the job of carrying oxygenated blood from the heart to other parts of the body. The abdominal aorta is the last portion of the aorta and is located in the abdominal cavity. It takes blood from the aorta, through the trunk, and to the abdominopelvic organs and legs.

The left ventricle and thoracic aorta of the heart lead to the abdominal aorta which begins at the diaphragm. This artery then crosses the diaphragm at the level of the T12 vertebrae. From there it descends along the posterior wall of the abdomen in front of the vertebral column, following the natural curvature of the lumbar vertebrae and positioned slightly to the left of the midline of the body. It also lies parallel to the inferior vena cava, which is located to its right.

Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for an abdominal aorta.
Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for an abdominal aorta.

The abdominal aorta branches into three sets of smaller arteries, becoming narrower as it descends through the abdominal cavity. These three sets are known as the visceral, parietal, and terminal arteries. These branches of the abdominal aorta and their associated vertebral levels are defined as follows. From the vertebral level of T12, the abdominal aorta first branches into the inferior phrenic and celiac arteries (T12), superior mesenteric and middle suprarenal arteries (L1), renal and gonadal arteries (L2), lumbar artery (L1-L4), inferior mesenteric artery (L3), and the median sacral and common iliac arteries (L4). At the L5 level, the artery then splits to form the two common iliac arteries that carry blood to the legs.

A diagram of the aorta, including the abdominal aorta.
A diagram of the aorta, including the abdominal aorta.

The most common ailment involving the abdominal aorta is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). An aneurysm is a widening (also known as dilation) of a blood vessel due to a weakness in the vessel. At the weak portion, the aneurysm bulges and poses a serious risk of rupture. An AAA is more common in men, particularly those age 60 and older. Approximately 5% of men over the age of 60 suffer from abdominal aortic aneurysms. Risk factors for the development of AAA include cigarette smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), and diabetes mellitus. While there are several possible causes of an AAA, the most common cause remains arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

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    • Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for an abdominal aorta.
      By: Николай Григорьев
      Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for an abdominal aorta.
    • A diagram of the aorta, including the abdominal aorta.
      By: bilderzwerg
      A diagram of the aorta, including the abdominal aorta.
    • The aorta is connected to the left ventricle of the heart.
      By: adimas
      The aorta is connected to the left ventricle of the heart.
    • The abdominal aorta is the last portion of the aorta and is located in the abdominal cavity.
      By: probiotic
      The abdominal aorta is the last portion of the aorta and is located in the abdominal cavity.