Impossible to live
without, the aorta is one of the central parts of the cardiovascular system and
thus key to the biological engine that drives the human body. It is the main
avenue for the circulation of oxygenated blood to all parts of the body, even
though it does not itself run from head to toe. As powerful as it is in the
generation of blood flow under normal circumstances, it is also remarkably
fragile, liable to be obstructed, severed or otherwise affected, often with
dire consequences attached. Simply put, if there is one artery in the human
body of great importance, it is the aorta.
The aorta is the largest of all arteries, carrying oxygenated blood to much of the body, with a notable exception being the pulmonary artery. It is remarkable for the elasticity of its outer and innermost vascular walls owing to the collagen in its connective tissue.
Part of the
descending aorta, the abdominal aorta provides blood to a number of vital
organs in the abdominal cavity before passing off the responsibility of blood
transport to the common iliacs. An acute health concern which may affect the
abdominal aorta is that of an aneurysm.
The most salient
feature of aorta anatomy is that of its arterial walls, made up of three
distinct layers. Irregular aorta anatomy may manifest in a number of ways,
including coarctation of the aorta as well as aortic dissection, a serious,
often fatal happening.
Contained between the
fourth and twelfth thoracic vertebrae, the thoracic aorta is a conduit for
oxygenated blood to pass through to the bronchi, esophagus and other regions.
As with the abdominal aorta, it may develop an aneurysm. Causes include Marfan
syndrome and, left untreated, syphilis.
The aortic valve is the door to the aorta, permitting oxygenated blood to come in by way of the left ventricle. When healthy, it opens to let arterial blood through and closes to keep it from reentering the heart, but when defective, it requires a replacement valve.
Bicuspid Aortic Valve
A congenital heart defect, the bicuspid aortic valve features only two leaflets as opposed to the customary three, which can lead to aortic regurgitation and stenosis, often concurrently. Approximately 1-2% of Americans suffer from this condition.
The effective top of the aorta, the aortic arch, resembling a bent joint like an elbow, connects the ascending and descending aortas. It also serves at the point of origin for important arteries: the left and right common carotid and subclavian arteries.
Intra Aortic Balloon Pump
Designed to increase productivity of the heart without increasing the workload, the intra-aortic balloon pump rhythmically causes a balloon to deflate and inflate inside the aorta to this end. It is most commonly used in heart patients for short spans.
The ascending aorta is contained within the span between the left ventricle/aortic root and the aortic arch. Its only significant branches are that of the coronary arteries which provide. In the event of poor circulation from a faulty aortic valve, aortic root surgery may be required.
The descending aorta runs downward from the aortic arch and is comprised of the thoracic and abdominal aortas. Some of its major arteries/branches send blood to the abdominal organs, esophagus, lungs and kidneys, among others. The descending aorta ends with the common iliac and femoral arteries.