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Main artery (aorta),
schematic representation

The aorta ( ancient Greek ἀορτή aortē , from ἀείρω aeirō , German 'I lift up to carry' ), also the main artery or large body artery , is a large blood vessel that arises from the left side of the heart . It directs the blood from the left heart chamber (left ventricle ) into the vessels of the great blood circulation .

The aorta is the largest artery ( artery ) of the body. In adult humans, it is usually about 2.5-3.5 cm in diameter and 30-40 cm in length. It has the shape of an upright walking stick with an arched beginning and a straight course down to the pelvic area.


Hippocrates (460 - around 370 BC) understood the aorta to be the trachea with the two main bronchi to which the lungs “hang”. Aristotle (384–322 BC) then transferred the name to the large body artery.


In anatomy , surgery and imaging procedures, a distinction is made between the following aortic sections for better orientation:

  • Ascending aorta ( ascending aorta ), which runs almost vertically upwards from the left ventricle and is separated from it by the aortic valve . It lies completely in the pericardial cavity and is only a few centimeters long. The slightly bulging initial part of the aorta (aortic bulb or bulb aortae ) consists of the three sinus aortae (also Sinus Valsalvae ), which are bounded by the closure edge of the respective aortic valve leaflet and the aortic wall. The coronary arteries ( Arteriae coronariae ) to supply the heart muscle arise from the anterior and left sinuses . On the ascending aorta there is a transition point of the pericardium, which is known as the ascendent crista aortae (beef fold ).
Aortic arch with branches, schematic
The aorta in the abdomen with branches (red)
  • Aortic arch ( Arcus aortae ) as a continuation of the vertically ascending aorta. The arteries for supplying the head and arms come from the aortic arch. The three major outlets of the aortic arch are the brachiocephalic trunk , the common carotid artery vein and subclavian vein .
  • Descending aorta ( aorta descendens ), which extends into the pelvic space and there divides into the two large pelvic arteries. It is approx. 30 cm long and is again divided into subsections:
    • Thoracic aorta ( aorta thoracica ), which lies completely in the chest cavity. It gives off vessels to the pericardium , to the intercostal spaces , to the esophagus and to supply the lung tissue itself (not to be confused with the vessels that lead to the uptake of oxygen by the lungs, these come from the small bloodstream). After passing through the aortic hiatus of the diaphragm , the thoracic aorta at the level of the twelfth thoracic vertebra becomesthe
    • Abdominal aorta ( aorta abdominalis ), which in turn can be divided into two segments based on the branching off of the two renal arteries ( arteriae renales ):
      • Abdominal aorta above the renal arteries ( aorta abdominalis suprarenalis ), which immediately after the diaphragm passes through the truncus celiacus to supply the stomach, spleen, duodenum, pancreas and liver. Another outlet ( arteria mesenterica superior ) supplies the main part of the intestine and the remaining digestive organs.
      • Abdominal aorta below the renal arteries ( aorta abdominalis infrarenalis ), from which the vessels for the lower intestinal sections ( arteria mesenterica inferior ), the rectum and some pelvic organs originate. This section of the aorta is finally divided into the two large iliac arteries (common iliac arteries ) at the level of the fourth lumbar vertebra in the pelvis .

Air vessel function

Thanks to the elasticity of its vascular wall, the aorta functions as an air chamber , which by mainly giving way radially when the pressure rises, turns the blood stream arriving from the heart in discrete bursts into a more evenly flowing stream by increasing its volume in a rhythmic manner. The pressure of the blood is constantly measured by pressure sensors (so-called baroreceptors ).

Investigation options

Projection of the large abdominal or abdominal vessels onto the various organs. View from ventral

Diseases of the aorta

Types of abdominal aortic stenosis

A distinction is made between the following types of abdominal aortic stenosis:

  • Localization suparenal without involvement of the visceral and renal arteries
  • Abdominal aortic stenosis involving the visceral and renal arteries; renovascular hypertension
  • Infrarenal aortic stenosis without involvement of the pelvic arteries
  • Infrarenal aortic stenosis involving the pelvic arteries

See also


  • Herbert Reindell , Helmut Klepzig: diseases of the heart and blood vessels. In: Ludwig Heilmeyer (ed.): Textbook of internal medicine. Springer-Verlag, Berlin / Göttingen / Heidelberg 1955; 2nd edition ibid. 1961, pp. 450-598, here: pp. 587-590 ( diseases of the aorta ).

Web links

Commons : Aorta  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Aorta  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Note. For purely geometric reasons, the tensile stress in the wall of a cylinder in which a fluid is under pressure is exactly twice as large in the circumferential direction as in the longitudinal direction.
  2. Cissarek et al .: Vascular Medicine: Therapy and Practice. P. 81