Abdominal aorta

This article uses anatomical terminology; for an overview, see Anatomical terminology.
Abdominal aorta

The abdominal aorta and its branches.
Source Thoracic aorta
Branches Celiac artery, superior mesenteric artery, inferior mesenteric artery, common iliac 6 others
Vein Inferior vena cava
Latin Aorta abdominalis,
pars abdominalis aortae
MeSH A07.
TA A12.2.12.001
FMA 3789

Anatomical terminology

The abdominal aorta is the largest artery in the abdominal cavity. As part of the aorta, it is a direct continuation of the descending aorta (of the thorax).


The abdominal aorta begins at the level of the diaphragm, crossing it via the aortic hiatus, technically behind the diaphragm, at the vertebral level of T12. It travels down the posterior wall of the abdomen, anterior to the vertebral column. It thus follows the curvature of the lumbar vertebrae, that is, convex anteriorly. The peak of this convexity is at the level of the third lumbar vertebra (L3). It runs parallel to the inferior vena cava, which is located just to the right of the abdominal aorta, and becomes smaller in diameter as it gives off branches. This is thought to be due to the large size of its principal branches. At the 11th rib, the diameter is 122mm long and 55mm wide and this is because of the constant pressure.

The abdominal aorta is clinically divided into 2 segments:

  1. The Paravisceral segment, off which the visceral branches arise
  2. The Infrarenal segment, inferior to the renal arteries and superior to the iliac bifurcation


The abdominal aorta supplies blood to much of the abdominal cavity. It begins at T12, and usually has the following branches:

Artery Branch Vertebra Type Paired? A/P Description
inferior phrenic T12 Parietal yes post. originates above the coelic trunk, below the diaphragm.It passes upward and medially to the supra renal gland, and crosses the crus of diaphragm of corresponding side. It supplies diaphragm and gives superior supra renal arteries.
celiac T12 Visceral no ant. large anterior branch
superior mesenteric L1 Visceral no ant. large anterior branch, arises just below celiac trunk
middle suprarenal L1 Visceral yes post. crosses laterally the crus of diaphragm on each side, and supplies the supra renal gland.
renal In between L1 and L2 Visceral yes post. arises just below the superior mesenteric artery. right renal artery passes deep to the inferior vena cava to right kidney. here it divides into branches. left renal artery passes deep to the left renal vein. it divides in hilum of kidney. both arteries gives inferior suprarenal arteries and ureteral branches.
gonadal L2 Visceral yes ant. ovarian artery in females; testicular artery in males
lumbar L1-L4 Parietal yes post. four on each side that supply the abdominal wall and spinal cord . the fifth pair is the lumbar branches of iliolumbar arteries. they pass deep to the crura on side of vertebral bodies and pass deep to the psaos major and quadratus lumborum to enter the space between internal oblique and transversus abdominis muscle. each artery gives off and small dorsal branch, which gives a spinal branch to the vertebral canal and then continues to supply the muscles of back.
inferior mesenteric L3 Visceral no ant. large anterior branch
median sacral L4 Parietal no post. artery arising from the middle of the aorta at its lowest part. represents the continuation of primitive dorsal aorta. and it is quite large in animals with tails but smaller in humans.
common iliac L4 Terminal yes post. branches (bifurcates) to supply blood to the lower limbs and the pelvis, ending the abdominal aorta

Note that the bifurcation (union) of the inferior vena cava is at L5 and therefore below that of the bifurcation of the aorta.

Contrast enhanced MRA of the abdominal aorta demonstrating normal paired arteries.
  1. inferior phrenic a.
  2. celiac a.
    1. left gastric a.
    2. splenic a.
      1. short gastric arteries (6)
      2. splenic arteries (6)
      3. left gastroepiploic a.
    3. common hepatic a.
      1. cystic a.
      2. right gastric a.
      3. gastroduodenal a.
        1. right gastroepiploic a.
        2. superior pancreaticoduodenal a.
      4. right hepatic a.
      5. left hepatic a.
  3. superior mesenteric a.
    1. jejunal and ileal arteries
    2. inferior pancreaticoduodenal a.
    3. middle colic a.
    4. right colic a.
    5. ileocolic a
      1. anterior cecal a.
      2. posterior cecal a. – appendicular a.
      3. ileal a.
      4. colic a.
  4. middle suprarenal a.
  5. renal a.
  6. testicular or ovarian a.
  7. four lumbar arteries
  8. inferior mesenteric a.
    1. left colic a.
    2. sigmoid arteries (2 or 3)
    3. superior rectal a.
  9. median sacral a.
  10. common iliac a.
    1. external iliac a.
    2. internal iliac a.


The abdominal aorta lies slightly to the left of the midline of the body. It is covered, anteriorly, by the lesser omentum and stomach, behind which are the branches of the celiac artery and the celiac plexus; below these, by the lienal vein (splenic vein), the pancreas, the left renal vein, the inferior part of the duodenum, the mesentery, and aortic plexus.

Posteriorly, it is separated from the lumbar vertebræ and intervertebral fibrocartilages by the anterior longitudinal ligament and left lumbar veins.

On the right side it is in relation above with the azygos vein, cisterna chyli, thoracic duct, and the right crus of the diaphragm—the last separating it from the upper part of the inferior vena cava, and from the right celiac ganglion; the inferior vena cava is in contact with the aorta below.

On the left side are the left crus of the diaphragm, the left celiac ganglion, the ascending part of the duodenum, and some coils of the small intestine.

A 3D animation still of the junction between the common iliac artery and the lower abdominal aorta
A 3D illustration of the abdominal aorta at the iliac junction

Relationship with inferior vena cava

The abdominal aorta's venous counterpart, the inferior vena cava (IVC), travels parallel to it on its right side.

Collateral circulation

The collateral circulation would be carried on by the anastomoses between the internal thoracic artery and the inferior epigastric artery; by the free communication between the superior and inferior mesenterics, if the ligature were placed between these vessels; or by the anastomosis between the inferior mesenteric artery and the internal pudendal artery, when (as is more common) the point of ligature is below the origin of the inferior mesenteric artery; and possibly by the anastomoses of the lumbar arteries with the branches of the internal iliac artery.

Clinical relevance


Additional images

See also

External links

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